After 32 years in business, Ed and Miriam Perry are trying to sell their Stockton Springs gas station and convenience store. The local landmark has been home to a thriving social scene for as long as the Perrys have owned it, which could be a blessing or a headache for prospective buyers, depending on whom you ask.

The Perrys quietly put the business on the market last year. Several months ago, they put a sign out on Route 1 in front of the store.

According to Ed Perry, it’s not that the couple wants to sell the business. His own poor health has just made it too difficult to continue.

Perry is approaching 79 years old and though his mind and wit are unquestionably sharp, his body appears much the worse for wear. He walks slowly and with a permanent hunch to his back, elbows out to the side as though he were about to draw a pair of pistols. One eye is partly closed behind a pair of glasses.

Over the years Perry has had two heart attacks, and he speaks of them, matter-of-factly, pegging them to cutbacks in the store’s hours of operation.

He used to work from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. After the first heart attack, he started closing at 8 p.m. Today he closes at six. By his own account, he spends another two hours a night doing paperwork.

“I feel better now, working less hours,” he said.

Ed Perry is the public face of the store, but he is quick to credit Miriam, his wife of 58 years, who has largely worked behind the scenes, handling the bookkeeping for the store. Ed calls her the “backbone” of the business.

“If it wasn’t for my wife, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “The two that works together as a team makes a huge difference, I tell ya.”

Then there are the customers.

The narrow aisles inside the Perrys’ convenience store have been a hangout for as long as the Perrys have been running the show. Regulars, mostly men, line up on either side of the store’s central aisle, resting Styrofoam coffee cups on whatever empty bit of shelf space is available and sustaining a banter laced with good-natured ribbing.

Asked how they felt about the store being sold, the half-dozen men in the store Aug. 20 didn’t seem eager to consider the possibility of a Perry’s without the Perrys.

“It depends who it was … if they’re a people person,” said Tink Smith, a regular patron of Perry’s. “I think we’re kind of a pain, but we try to help the customers.”

“We’ll come until they throw us out,” said Larry Dakin, who said he had been coming to Perry’s for as long as the store had been open. He even did some work on the building before it opened.

“That’s why it’s got a sagging roof,” someone interjected.

Dakin laughed. “That’s why the foundation is shaky,” he said.

In conversation, Perry speaks highly of the people who frequent his store, locals and out-of-staters alike, many returning year after year, from as far away as Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He doesn’t consider them “customers,” he said, he considers them “friends.”

Between jokes, the feeling seems to be mutual.

“That’s quite a couple,” said Greg Bowden, a regular customer who was in for the second time that day. He shook his head at the thought of the Perrys selling the business.

“Most people who would buy a store like this would want stuff on the shelves, people coming in and out of the store. They don’t want a bunch of old guys hanging around drooling on the shelves.”

The Perrys have two sons, but neither is interested in taking over the business, according the father. They haven’t said why, but Perry suspects they don’t want to be tied down to the store seven days a week.

This he sees as a generational change as much as anything, one that has also affected his ability to find help for the store.

“Those days they wanted to work. Today they want a job,” he said, though he doesn’t count his current employees among the slacker generation. “I’ve got some nice help right this minute,” he said, making note of an 18-year-old employee he described as “A-1.”

When Perry first bought the store he said he had planned to semi-retire after 10 years.

“Here I am,” he said, dryly. “I got everything running smooth and said I’d stay a little longer.”

And what if the business doesn’t sell?

“I’m going to keep running. You can’t close the door down,” Perry said. “If you close the door down you probably ain’t worth nothing.”

He paused for a moment.

“I’m slowing up with age,” he said. “I love what I do. That’s the bad part.”