The iconic market is making a return following a six-month absence from the Round Pond community now that Steve Brackett, a longtime Round Pond resident and former bookkeeper at Shaw’s Fish and Lobster Wharf in New Harbor, is taking over King Ro Market store duties from the store’s co-owners B.J. Russell and Lori Crook.
Brackett now owns the business and is leasing the space in the building, with the option to buy from Russell and Crook. Bracket signed the lease on Friday, Oct. 27.
“We have all the confidence that they’ll be successful,” Crook said.
In 2019, Russell and Crook made the difficult decision to step away from the business and put the 150-year-old building, at 1414 Route 32, up for sale while seeking a proper replacement to steward the business.
After an unsuccessful search, Russell and Crook closed the doors on May 12, which, according to Russell, was the first extended closure in over 50 years. The last being when the previous owner, Artel Bryant, passed away in 1968. Russell’s parents bought the store in 1970, opening in 1971, and he took over operations in 1991 eventually buying the building from them in 1995.
Crook said they are excited about leasing to Brackett for a number of reasons, his familiarity in and with the community being one, but the fact that they share a similar vision for the building and its future was one of the most comforting.
“Steve’s ideas for the business’ future look a lot like the things Lori and I would have done if we were 20 years younger and were staying in the business,” Russell said.
Crook said she’s excited about bringing in someone who’s local and agreed that leasing the business to Brackett was like handing it off to a teammate.
“We finally have someone who is ambitious, honest, and will do the best for the community,” Crook said.
Russell knows Steve Brackett’s wife as well. Karen Brackett, director of special services for RSU 40, worked with him in the store from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, as well at Riverview Market, a store in New Harbor he previously owned.
According to Steve Brackett, the store will still provide some of the standbys the market is known for, such as gasoline, pizza, and premade sandwiches, while also looking to develop a few components.
“The store will be a lot like it was, but with some additions,” he said.
There will be a renovated walk-in “beer cave” customers can enter in the back of the store, a deli, some produce and fruits, the return of the lottery, and, at some point, a bar that will be installed along the far wall of the dining area for a pub, according to Steve Brackett.
“We’re going to have a pub atmosphere in here and a full kitchen,” he said.
With renovation underway and an eye to the future, right now, the focus is on opening, Steve Brackett said. Some of the larger projects like the bar and installation of the pub will happen when the time comes for it.
“This won’t be available immediately when we open, but it’ll happen,” said Steph Harris, Crook’s daughter and King Ro Market’s longtime baker, a role she will continue in when the market reopens.
Brackett is hoping to have a menu with a little something for everyone, including burgers, fish sandwiches, steak, and chicken.
Steph Drexler, an employee of Russell’s for three years, provided the kitchen equipment and will be making premade sandwiches and running the deli.
Russell is helping with carpentry and renovation of the space.
While Steve Brackett hasn’t run a market before, Crook and Russell have all the confidence in him and the experienced team.
“If I can do it, anyone can,” Russell said, laughing.
Between the times he took over the business and when he got out of it, Russell said King Ro changed a lot, and he’s excited about the changes to come with Steve Brackett, but that he stepped away, in part, because it was time for more change.
“It was time for me to step down, you know, it needed fresh blood,” Russell said.
King Ro has long been a hub for Round Pond commerce and on special occasions like Fourth of July and Halloween, it has served as a place the community has come together to celebrate, and Brackett is excited to participate in that tradition.
“The Fourth is going to be fun,” Brackett said.
Brackett, Dexter, and Harris, dressed up in costume this Halloween, to greet Round Pond trick-or-treaters with bowls of candy.
According to Brackett, the store will likely be open within the next couple of weeks, but that their goal is to have things sorted before Christmas.