HODGDON, Maine — A Houlton entrepreneur who saw COVID-19 bring about a crippling end to his bowling alley business found new opportunities arise with a general store — including the only gas station in a 40-mile stretch of road.
Geno and Laura Seiders purchased Hill-Top Lanes, southern Aroostook County’s only candlepin bowling alley, in December 2018. And for a year-and-a-half, business was good.
Business was so good, in fact, that the couple were able to open a redemption center, and later a convenience store at the 53 Calais Road property, adjacent to the bowling alley. But when COVID-19 hit, the couple was forced to close the bowling alley, and have been unable to justify reopening the recreational center.
The Seiderses’ business versatility is an example of how people in rural areas often have to adapt quickly to changes affecting their financial stability.
“COVID hit us really hard,” Geno said. “Thankfully we had started the redemption center and that was doing really well. That enabled us to do the store. We are now so busy with this that the bowling alley is on the back burner.”
With his focus solely centered around the store, Seiders said he has devoted his attention to bringing in new ideas. The Houlton entrepreneur greatly expanded his business this past summer by adding 2,500 square feet to his store, with a focus on outdoor goods, firearms and ammunition.
“A young man came to me and said we should do some bait, and the idea just kind of grew from there,” he said. “There was a big demand for that, and it has just grown from there. We decided to bring in a line of guns and ammunition for all of the hunters.”
Seiders also added a line of outdoor apparel, including hats, gloves, shirts and more, many of which feature a custom-created logo for his business. His wife also added a bundle of gifts and decorations for the home, including a line of Primitive products. An additional 1,100-square-foot expansion is in the works for next year.
This fall, he added a gasoline pump to the business, becoming the only fuel station along U.S. Route 1 for roughly 40 miles. The next closest stop for gas can be found at the Mill Yard in Danforth for those heading south. It is also conveniently located on the ITS 105 snowmobile trail.
“We’re the first into town or the last one if you are heading out,” Seiders said. “Now we are really on the map. I am hoping the addition of the gas will bring in even more sledders. We really are trying to be something for everyone. It’s been a bit of an ordeal, but we are having fun with it.”
Seiders Variety and Sporting Goods is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. Gasoline is only available during regular business hours.