Bradbury’s has been a Cape Porpoise landmark for generations. The building its in now was constructed in 1893 by Luman E. Fletcher to take advantage of a growing tourist industry at the Cape. Fletcher’s Store housed a Post Office, a Variety Store, and an Ice cream parlor. When the trolley tracks were laid to the pier, Luman made arrangements to sell trolley tickets. He hired photographers to take Cape Porpoise views for postcards to sell and he also sold the Kennebunkport summer newspaper, The Wave. Luman Fletcher died in 1920 leaving his wife and two daughters to run the store until 1939, when Mrs. Fletcher sold it to Richard Landry.
Meanwhile, Frank Bradbury moved to Cape Porpoise in 1933. His father had died leaving him the house, the barn, space for a garden, and the woodlot across the street from Fletcher’s store. After a year of tending chickens and one milk cow, Frank sold 100 hens and cashed in his insurance policies to build the tiny 8×10 Bradbury’s Grocery store. He continued to work outside the house while his wife Alta ran the store during the day, making hamburgers and hotdogs in an iron frying pan over a 3-burner gas flat. Frank took over in the evening and the little store was transformed into a gathering place where men could talk politics and try their hand at the illegal nickel slot machine.
Bradbury’s Grocery grew in size and popularity, but Frank had his eye on the bigger store across the street. He made an offer to Richard Landry, who had changed the name of Fletcher’s to Bobby’s Variety, and in 1942 papers transferring ownership to Bradbury were finalized. Frank knew he would need help running the bigger store. He invited his oldest son, Wilbur to move from Massachusetts to Cape Porpoise and become his partner in the business. Both men had to work second jobs while their wives and children tended the store. In 1946, Frank’s son Milton joined the family business after returning from military service during WWII. They expanded the store, adding a soda fountain. In 1948, Milton bought his father’s share of the store. Wilbur and Milton were the Bradbury Brothers the store was named after. They ran it together for 30 years, joining the Independent Grocers Association (IGA) in 1950. They brought the Post Office back into the store in 1965.
Wilbur and Milton Bradbury sold the store in 1977 to Vic Chewning and John Swenas. Milton’s son Tom Bradbury continued to work for them. In 1990, Tom Bradbury and Stedman Seavey bought the store back and ran it together until 2005, when Tom sold his interest to Stedman to concentrate on his work with the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. Stedman ran the store for another 10 years. He sold it to the current owners, Jim and Christine Faiella in 2015.
The Post office at Bradbury’s is gone now but the close-knit community vibe remains especially in the wintertime when everyone knows everyone. We are very grateful to Jim and Christine for being there, providing us locals with a safe place to shop and meet friends during the difficult pandemic years.
Many thanks to Milton’s son Tom Bradbury. As usual, he generously shared pictures and family memories.