When R. H. Reny opened his first department store in Damariscotta, Maine in 1949 I doubt he ever imagined that his efforts would someday inspire a popular musical. (Google: “Reny’s – The Musical”) He was too busy driving down the back roads to Pemaquid and Christmas Cove (Hmmm…. You mean there are front roads to those places?) selling goods out of his car. He figured that if people didn’t come to his new store, he’d take his store to the people.
At the time of his death last week at the age of 83, there were 14 stores across the state. While Reny’s might not go door-to-door anymore, we Mainers flood the place today, especially on that day of the week when new shipments of overstocks and surplus goods arrive (many with slashed or X-ed out labels) from stores like Eddie Bauer, The North Face, Patagonia, etc. (I scored a sweet Martin + OSA polo shirt on my last visit.) What day is that?…….. Nice try. With one of those stores in Bath, I’m not about to tip my hand to any Hyde parents and alums.
While his legacy might not be as internationally well known as that of another retailer 30 miles or so down the road who also sported a 2-initial moniker for a first name, Mr. Reny and his stores are a true Maine institution and a symbol of state pride. The stores live on, now in the hands of his children. Upon his death, his son John explained his father’s formula, “….don’t try to be the biggest guy on the block, but you can be the best. And work hard, and do what you do well.”
Words to live by.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld