Gerry’s Variety quietly reopened for business last Friday, and it took almost no time for the regulars to return.

They only had candy, Exeter blue bags and newspapers, but it didn’t matter to those who were waiting for the heart of the local community to open its doors again.

Gone are the scuffed floors, tired walls and old displays. In their place are new grey tiles, bright white walls, and a modern point of sale system.

But don’t panic Exeter. Gerry’s is still Gerry’s.

There’s a large selection of beer, wine, ice cream, and those random ingredients you need at the last minute. There’s also Stonyfield Farm Organic Milk, almond butter, and homemade ice cream from Memories.

Most importantly, there’s Larry Copp, Jayne Powell, and the other staff members that have helped make the store feel like a community for decades.

In April, Laurie Goupil sold the store to KC Cargill and his wife Alexis “Lexie” Wile, who own the Lexie’s restaurants. Laurie’s late husband Roland, who died in 2012, bought Gerry’s in 1966, becoming the third owner of the corner store.

KC and Lexie, who moved to Exeter in 2015, used to live right around the corner from Gerry’s. Like others, they felt the charm and importance of the store in the community. “We kind of jumped on it right away,” KC said of the opportunity to buy the store.

When Gerry’s closed temporarily for a general sprucing, and updating, regulars expressed a sense of mourning. Some worried that the store would lose the character that made it unique. KC and Lexie say their goal was to improve the store without losing what makes it special.

Jayne jumped in to help with the dismantling, cleaning, and refreshing of Gerry’s. It was a bittersweet process, with a few surprises along the way. Behind old displays, they found boxes of food that had fallen there decades ago. They also found vintage signs, including one “Have a Pepsi” sign that still had prices for different items written in chalk handwriting. A ham sandwich was 35 cents at the time the sign was on display.

“It got to me a little bit, but it’s good,” Jayne said of the process. “I can feel good about what I’ve done to help.”

While Jayne is grateful that KC and Lexie empowered her to take on a different type of role during the updates, she is glad to be back at the register interacting with customers. “My forte is service and people,” she said. “I think the new owners have given this place the respect it needed.”

Customers have been positive about the improvements and eager to look around. “It’s cool to see the excitement the town has for this place,” Jayne said.

In the days since the soft opening, the store has gradually added more stock to its shelves. The entrance appears much more open without the old counter, now replaced by a temporary wooden counter until a permanent one is installed. “I can’t wait to see it with the finishing touches,” Jayne said.

The timing is ideal for Lincoln Street, which is undergoing a revitalization of its own. Like others, I have been frustrated by the amount of construction, delays and detours around town in recent months. But, with paving started, new trees planted, I could start to envision a new Lincoln Street this week. It’s starting to look like more than a cut through driving route and more like a place you’d like to stop and spend some time.

Economic Development Director Darren Winham cited the town’s investment of $4.4 million in improvements for road, sidewalk, sewer and stormwater, and the private businesses investing with the successful revitalization of the area.

"The marriage of public and private investment, and several others that are percolating, in the Lincoln Street corridor has and will continue to responsibly modernize the neighborhood, yet maintain the traditional vibrant village feel the community adores,” Winham said.

The changing face of the street is not lost on KC and Lexie. “We want to invest, our family wants to invest in this town,” KC said, adding Lincoln Street has become the home base for their expanding business. “As we got going, we saw the street and the need for a second commercial zone.”

KC recalled going to the Three Brothers Marketplace when they first moved to town and being impressed by the Plimpton brothers and the food they created. “I was like, we’ve got to open a Lexie’s here,” KC said of Exeter.

When Lexie’s opened in the former Circus Café building across from the train station, the Lincoln Street revitalization was just an idea. The family experienced a warm reception from the community almost immediately. Customers were excited they didn’t have to drive to Portsmouth or Newburyport for their Lexie’s fix.

The couple loved the train station adjacent to the restaurant and saw potential in Gerry’s. “We do believe in it and we do think this street has come a long way and it’s got farther to go,” Lexie said. “I’m excited for the people that live over here to experience what’s happening here and the changes that are going to come.”

Along with the reopening, Gerry’s will see some expanded offerings. Customers may soon find grab and go style food from the Three Brothers team. KC hopes to create a Gerry’s brand of food, while Lexie is looking toward Gerry’s shirts. The couple plans to expand the beer selection with additional displays. A penny candy area is coming together. To celebrate their grand reopening on Friday, they are planning a beer and wine sale.

Jayne, meanwhile, is thrilled by the response from the community since they opened, “You can tell we’re part of the community when we’re open for eight hours and people are like, ‘You’re back.”

Lara Bricker is a former staff writer for the Exeter News-Letter, the author of two books of non-fiction and an Exeter resident. She can be reached at on Facebook at Lara Bricker Author or on Twitter @larabricker.