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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 9, 2023
TradeWind’s sale to Hannaford ‘bittersweet’
New adventures await the Lawrences

Tradewinds Cancer donations

A significant part of the Lawrences sojourn as owners of TradeWinds over the years has been their philanthropy—benefiting local schools and nonprofits, and their campaign to fight cancer through gas pump sales. Allen L’Italien, BSN, OCN, RN, executive director of Northern Light Cancer Care, center, honored Belinda and Chuck Lawrence as their Pumped Up to Fight Cancer campaign reached the $1 million mark in 2019.

Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center

by Maggie White

Fortuitously, Chuck and Belinda Lawrence met in a grocery store. She was given the task of training her future husband as cashier and bookkeeper at the market in Caribou where he would soon become manager (she worked at a different branch at the time). That a grocery store was the catalyst for their relationship is fitting—10 years into their marriage they decided it was time for their very own store and they’ve thus owned and operated TradeWinds Market Place in Blue Hill for the past 23 years.

In May, however, the store will be under new ownership as Hannaford Supermarkets takes the reins. It seems that the Lawrences, who married on Valentine’s Day in Las Vegas more than three decades ago, are ready for their next adventure.

Chuck Lawrence said that they’ve been talking about the possibility of a Hannaford acquisition for about a decade. “We’ve had interactions for 10 years where they wanted to buy our store,” he said in a recent phone interview. Citing the last few years as challenging, it seemed that the timing was finally right.

“In the last three years, the resources have become less and less—the lack of staffing and labor shortages,” said Lawrence. “It’s a big store with high demands of staffing; what we realized is that it really needs to be in a corporation now, with all their resources.”

Lawrence added that while their three grown sons have all been involved in one way or another, none were keen to continue on with the consuming 24-7 schedule that retail requires.

Though early retirement is a deliberate goal that Chuck is excited about (he’s 58 years old), the decision to sell was bittersweet. “We love the Blue Hill community; they have supported us tremendously; it’s an amazing community,” said Lawrence, who lives about 30 miles away in Holden.

“The people appreciate you being there, day after day. If I walked into that store and I hadn’t seen people in a while, they would hug you and welcome you….My wife and I, we thought the newness would wear off 23 years ago. It never did,” said Lawrence, who added that he recently spent half a day on the floor of the store and was approached by “countless” community members expressing appreciation and offering words of congratulation for his impending retirement.

“Over a period of time, you expect the relationship to deteriorate, but it still feels like family in that store. Feels like we are serving family. I know my wife feels that way. My wife loves the interactions with people—the customers, the staff, all of them. She always says Blue Hill feels like family.”

Lawrence has been working in grocery stores since he was a teenager. Now, after 40 years of retail, he’s excited to be planning what the next chapter with his life partner could hold.

“Belinda and I, over the past 10 years or so, we’ve taken up hiking and visiting national parks. What we’ve come up with [for retirement] is to each make individual bucket lists and then we’ll merge them. Our relationship is: if I want to do it, she wants to come with me and if she wants to do something, I want to go with her.”

Though there are adventures on their horizon, they have no plans to leave the community. “We’re going to be very active in the YMCA….we want to get more involved in that,” said Lawrence, who started the Lawrence Family Foundation about six or seven years ago in order to manage donations and raise money for the building of the new gymnasium addition on the Lawrence Family Fitness Center YMCA. An indoor track opened earlier this year and the basketball/pickle ball court with additional gym and classroom space is slated for completion in April.

As they get set to move on from TradeWinds, one thing the Lawrences want to emphasize is gratitude. “We will forever be grateful. We worked hard, we’ve done well, we’ve given back and had a lot of support. But my family credits all that we have and the ability to retire early to the Blue Hill community.”