Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Hannah and Dan Richards, shown with their children, Lucy, 4, and Mia, 6, recently purchased the North Yarmouth Variety store. Photo courtesy of Hannah Richards

As the coronavirus outbreak expanded, unemployment numbers climbed and many small businesses were forced to close their doors.

But fears about the economy didn’t stop Dan and Hannah Richards from chasing their dream. On May 15, they closed on a deal to purchase North Yarmouth Variety, a convenience store with a take-out restaurant and gas station. They opened the doors to their own business Sunday.

“I know it’s a crazy time to be buying a small business, especially our first business,” said Hannah Richards. “But having our own store has long been a dream of ours and we decided to trust in the millennial work ethic and pivoting skills to forge ahead, despite all the uncertainty.”

Dan Richards has been working in the food business for years and was recently the chef and manager of the Cumberland Food Stop. But he yearned for his own place. So the couple began the process of purchasing North Yarmouth Variety last fall. When the pandemic hit, said Hannah Richards, “It pushed us back to Square One.”

They knew it was risky, but never lost faith.

“I don’t think we ever doubted we would go through with the deal,” said Hannah Richards, who works at  Ethos Marketing in Portland. “We had looked at other businesses in the past, and just felt this was the right one for us. This was going to work and we went on our gut instinct.

“(Coronavirus) threw a wrench into our financing plans. We had to adjust our projections to make sure it could work. We had to do some re-negotiating. … There were a lot of late nights staring at spread sheets until our eyes were crossed. In our hearts we knew if we could get the bank to go along, we could make it work.”

Hannah Richards said they “leveraged our house, our cars, all of our savings. “We put everything on the line,” she said. “You just plan as much as you can and roll with the punches and get ready for a lot of really hard work.”

The Richards – Dan is 37, Hannah is 31 – live in Cumberland Center, about two miles from the store. Their daughters, Mia, 6, and Lucy, 4, were both there on the first day, putting the “open” flag up and planting flowers in the pots. “They want to help,” said Hannah Richards.

They retained all the employees there. Dan has been working 15-hour days at North Yarmouth Variety to get everything going. Hannah has been promoting the store on social media. Like most convenience stores, they sell grocery items, canned goods, snacks, chips, beer, wine and hot and cold sandwiches, as well as pizza. Dan Richards purchased a smoker so they can add some specialty sandwiches. They offer take-out and curbside pick-up.

The Richards have ideas on how to upgrade some offerings, but want to take it slow.

“We don’t want to fix something that isn’t broken,” said Dan Richards. “We’re coming at this asking, ‘How can we make this better?’ and ‘How can we make this work?,’ not, ‘How can we make this ours.’ ”

“People love the store for what it is,” said Hannah Richards. “We don’t want to take it and hipsterize it. We want to retain the charm it has.”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at [email protected]

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