The historic Lincolnville Center General Store could be open as early as spring, said owners Marcie and Jeremy Howard of Hope.

Jan. 19, in conjunction with Lincolnville Improvement Association, the Howards spoke at an informational meeting to update the public about plans for the store, hear public input and answer questions. The meeting, timed simultaneously with Lincolnville Farmer's Market, was a success, according to the Howards.

The meeting drew 30 to 40 people to the former Grampa Hall's Antiques space, which is also owned by the Howards and presently rented to the farmers market and Lincolnville Community Library.

In a Jan. 30 interview Jeremy Howard said Lincolnville Center General Store stands "completely gutted," including the demolition of all existing hardware and plumbing. Howard owns and operates Heartwood Carpentry and said a portion of the extensive renovations on the building — which they believe was originally constructed in the mid-1800s — have been completed. He added that there is still a great deal of renovation work to be done before the store opens for business.

A 34-foot by 50-foot addition has been added to the back of the store and will house the majority of the retail market space and a commercial kitchen on the ground floor and the upper level will be offered as four office spaces, Howard said. The Howards said they have already received multiple inquiries from potential tenants interested in renting those offices.

"There's pretty nice demand for office spaces in Lincolnville Center," said Howard.

The old part of the store will house about a half-dozen tables and a service counter of yet-to-be-determined size and the store also will offer a courtesy Wi-Fi connection, he said.

"It will be a place where people can sit down and eat or meet," said Marcie Howard, who described the vision for the space as akin to a "coffeehouse."

The front porch has been removed from the building and Howard said no decision has been made about whether to rebuild a replica covered porch in it's place. He added there will be a porch with bench seating flanking a new, second entrance on the side of the store. The Howards said they aim to retain a historic feel, preserving as much of the existing building as possible and working to apply a similar aesthetic to new construction.

"We like a lot of character," said Howard.

Marcie Howard added she's already enjoying the hunt for reclaimed decor items, and will proudly display her grandfather's snowshoes and antique ski boots on a wall space somewhere in the store.

"I love finding stuff and just looking around," she said, retrieving an antique kitchen scale with a patina of light rust discovered in her travels.

"It still works, though we won't be using at the store," she said with a laugh.

While Lincolnville residents have Drake's Corner Store near the center, the historic center general store has been shuttered for several years.

In October 2011 Briar and Jon Fishman purchased the store and building across the way on Heal Street; they also helped start the Lincolnville Farmers Market before opting to return to their native Vermont. The Howards and Fishmans are friends, and prior to taking the reins at the store Howard had been "directly involved behind the scenes" helping with inspections, consulting and watching the vision evolve since the Fishmans purchased the property, according to a previously published report.

The community response to the initial plan for the direction of the store was positive, said the Howards. Suggestions voiced at the meeting included the inclusion of live music at the store, an idea that previously occurred to the couple.

"We had thought about [having music] and are planning on it," said Marcie Howard.

Additionally, the cafe area of the store will have a gallery wall devoted to showcasing a revolving array of local art.

The Howards said they were pleased by the diverse crowd at the meeting, which spanned ages and included some new faces.

"One woman said [the revitalization of Lincolnville Center] was one of the main reasons she moved to Lincolnville," said Howard.

The store will carry an array of groceries including fresh produce and beef from Aldermere Farm in Rockport, where Jeremy Howard's father Ron is general manager. The couple said they'll work to offer both organic and traditional grocery choices to suit customer preference.

With the inclusion of a new, commercial kitchen in the renovation the Howards are looking forward to offering a selection of prepared soups and chowders to grab-and-go and made-to-order options to eat in or take out. The menu is a work in progress, but a couple general store favorites are a certainty.

"Definitely pizza, definitely sandwiches," Howard said.

The couple explained the culinary direction will depend largely on the person hired to run the store's kitchen and on customer demand. The everyday menu will be augmented with daily specials incorporating seasonal ingredients whenever possible.

Marcie Howard said ice cream is also in the works.

"We're mostly excited about good-quality, healthy food," said Howard.

In an April 2012 interview, the Howards said they hoped to have the store renovated and open by fall. A busy season for Heartwood Carpentry and the arrival of their third son in late spring contributed to delay of the extensive renovation.

"It's a major restoration and we knew it was going to be. We do it as we can as it's a huge project," said Howard.

The couple is committed to executing the renovation using green practices and as many sustainable materials as possible, energy efficiency is also a high priority, they said.

"We're being as green as possible, the building techniques are extremely efficient," said Howard. He added they are "researching efficient heating options" that have been successful in other commercial spaces. A full, dry basement also has been completed and will be used as storage space, he added.

The flooring in the new portion of the building will be crafted from Maine-grown pine purchased through Warren flooring company A.E. Sampson & Son, Howard said.

"The roof is on [the addition] and we'll start framing the office spaces soon," Howard said.

In addition to grocery items, Lincolnville Center General Store will have a small hardware section and will carry bait and fishing tackle. They said they've been approached by some vendors interested in displaying their wares for sale there.

"As much as possible we want carry Maine [made] stuff," Marcie Howard said.

Marcie Howard said she has spoken with a local woman who has a small plant nursery, and hopes to carry a selection of her plants if possible. A greater selection of beer and wine than has been available in the past will include wine from Cellardoor Winery and beer from Andrew's Brewing Co., both based in Lincolnville.

"Of course we have to go through distributors to buy certain things," Howard said.

Service is a priority for the couple, who empathize with the needs of busy families. Marcie Howard said she would like to offer a call-in option for customers, allowing them to simply stop by the store to settle up and pick up provisions. They've also been approached about cooperative-style ordering and delivery service, both of which are eventual possibilities.

The Howards said they have had inquiries from a number of people interested in employment at the store, they said they'll likely hire four to six employees for a range of full-time and part-time positions, the store will be open 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. in the summer and from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. in the winter.

The Howards said they have been working with Andrew Stewart, owner of Hope General Store, and said he has provided a great deal of advice. They said future collaborations and events with the two revitalized stores are a possibility that both parties are excited about.

"We've been talking to [Stewart] a lot through this process, he's been great," said Marcie Howard.

Like Stewart and wife Shannon, who are both familiar faces at Hope General, the Howards said they will also be a presence in the store.

"We'll definitely be hands-on in the store," Howard said.

The Howards said they hope to work with the vendors at the farmers market to facilitate a complementary relationship and the winter market may even transition into the store at some point, they said.

"It's going to be fun to watch [the store] evolve over the years," said Howard.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at jlookner@courierpublicationsllc.com