TWIN MOUNTAIN — For 35 years, John and Donna Foster have provided the residents of Twin Mountain with whatever they needed, be it a gallon of milk, a package of nails, or a last-minute gift.
Now, they're ready to say goodbye to 70-hour weeks and have decided to sell Foster's Crossing.
When they bought the business, their goal was to make it a real old-fashioned general store, the couple said.
"We've listened to what people said they wanted and tried to carry it," Donna Foster said.
If they couldn't carry it, they'd try to special order it, the couple said.
While serving the needs of residents, who over the years became more like friends and neighbors, they've also saved a building that speaks to the bygone history of the area.
The structure the store is in was once the Rosebrook Inn, one of many inns that dotted the White Mountains during the days when the railroad brought people to the mountains. There aren't many left. Wooden structures, most succumbed to fire or neglect years ago.
The first structure on the property was a boarding house, built in 1820 to serve railroad workers. It burned, and the Rosebrook Inn was built in its place.
It survived as an inn longer than most, closing in the 1940s, John Foster said. By that time, cars were replacing passenger trains, and it was becoming unacceptable to dump sewage right into the river, which runs behind the building, he said.
For a while it was a restaurant, but in the years before the Fosters bought the building, it was a Polaris dealership and a hardware store that sold lumber, both which the Fosters retained when they first bought the business on Feb. 15, 1979.
John Foster had a degree in hotel management. He was working for a company that provided food for several of the ski areas. Donna was from Boston and came up to ski weekends. They met at Cannon Mountain. They will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in June.
"We wanted our own business and had been looking for a restaurant, but couldn't find any at a price we could afford," Donna Foster said. "Then we found this, and it was in our price range."
For a couple of years, they operated the hardware and Polaris businesses. Then in 1981 they put in their first cooler and it became a store. They named it "Foster's Crossing," keeping some of the hardware lines and adding more food and gifts.
Today, they offer groceries, sporting goods, some hardware, lawn and garden, gifts, seasonal clothing and sporting gear, gasoline, liquid propane gas refills for camper, and "old things."
Up until 2000, their business was also their home. They lived in a first floor wing off the store.
"When I was asked about my commuting distance to work, I said one inch," Donna said.
One of the rooms upstairs has been converted to offer seasonal clothing, but the rest is just storage. The inn was open only in the summer and is not insulated. There is no heat and no electricity, except that added by John for lights.
After 35 years, the Fosters have decided to retire and the store is for sale.
"We've had fun," Donna said. "We've survived gasless summers and snowless winters."
They hope someone will buy it and keep it open, but said some who've looked at it have said they'd tear it down.
"This place is a landmark. It's been a place to meet for a long time," Donna said.
Bonnie Moroney, a selectman in Twin Mountain, serves on the planning board with Donna Foster and said she has known the couple since the mid 1970s.
"They're good people, very hard working, always very active with the town," she said.
She recalled the Fosters helping establish the local snowmobile club and that they were members of the Chamber of Commerce.
A variety show called Twin Mountain Follies was held for about a half dozen years, with the money raised going to varies needs in the town. The Fosters were always singers in the show.
"They were always doing things to build the town up," Moroney said.
The Fosters have a house right up the road, and Twin Mountain will remain their base. Over the years, they have become deeply ingrained in the town. John was on the ambulance squad for 27 years and is now a trustee of the Trust Funds, and Donna is chairman of the planning board.
But they've bought a camper and plan to do some traveling. Donna said she is looking forward to taking more walks, attending more family and friends' events (which they couldn't do on weekends with the store), and spending more time on crafts.
"The whole thing has been interesting," John said, when asked about favorite memories. "It's been a life, a life revolved around the store."