Barnes, who opened the market in 1992, is a self-described “social person” whose business is not only a convenience store offering groceries as well as a substantial menu of breakfast items, sandwiches, pizzas, fried chicken, and other fare for taking out or dining in—it’s also a gathering place with a down-home feel.
“I like to talk with people,” Barnes said recently from a booth in the market’s cozy dining area. “This isn’t just a job. It’s a socializing event.”
Reminiscing about the interesting people she’s met through the market, Barnes mentioned a woman from Lubec who’d seen a commercial about West Front Market. “She and her husband used to watch the commercial and say, ‘We’re going to go there someday,’” Barnes related. “Her husband recently passed away, so she decided she was going to come to West Front Market. I had a nice conversation with her. She was going to visit some family and then stop by again on the way back.”
“Then there were some people from New Brunswick who came in on motorcycles,” Barnes continued. “They were really awesome, and since then we’ve become friends on Facebook. A lot of interesting people. A lot of good stories.”
Interesting people and good stories seem to be hallmarks of Barnes’ life as West Front owner. She recently learned that her West Front Market team for the Pine Tree Paddle, which supports Pine Tree Camp, was the top fundraising group this year. In her celebratory Facebook post she noted that it “puts a smile on our faces to help the kids go to camp!”
When asked if this was the first time her team had raised the most funds for Pine Tree, she grinned. “We did it last year too. And we’re going to do it again next year.”
Barnes has also done fundraising for cancer research, given out food baskets during the holidays, and sent supplies to Louisiana during flooding.
“Anything to help people,” she said.
In fact, opening West Front Market in the first place was a way of helping her community. After a small convenience store on West Front Street closed, Barnes decided to open one of her own, purchasing a building that was being used as a bakery and transforming it into a convenience store.
“I thought this side of town needed something,” she said.
She was right, and the market soon outgrew its quarters. Within 10 years she built the current structure to meet the community’s needs. Today the store has 11 employees, and Barnes has expanded offerings to include many gluten-free options for her patrons.
Now, after nearly 25 years in business, Barnes is planning on retiring in four years.
“I worry too much about everything,” she said. “Is everything working perfectly? Are the employees okay? I worry too much.”
Despite the worry, it’s clear that Barnes has thoroughly enjoyed owning West Front Market.
“I’ve raised some beautiful children, some great grandchildren, and I’ve met a ton of new people through here, some that have become very good friends,” she said. “It’s been an awesome company to have. I’ve put my kids through college, their weddings, their babies. I’ve bought my cars, my trucks, my motorcycles, my snowmobiles. It’s done it all.”