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Regulars come one last time before Noank landmark closes
Groton - A woman poured her own coffee and another customer helped clear plates at Carson's Store on Tuesday, one of the Noank store's last days in business after 106 years.
The store had nearly run out of food by 11 a.m. The store will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. today so people may stop in for the last day, even if it has little or nothing to serve.
Customer Elisa Coppelman said after she heard the store was closing, she drove from Massachusetts to Noank on Monday night, arriving at midnight.
"When I was driving there, my feeling was I just had to be there," she said Tuesday. "I felt like I owed it to myself, for all that Carson's has stood for."
Coppelman owned the Bernese mountain dog, Maya, that was often tied to the pillar outside the store.
The business opened in 1907 but over the years became more than a diner. It was the place in Noank folks went to get their news: What movie was playing in town? Who died? Who caught the biggest fish at 4 a.m.? Who won the sailboat race?
Christine McGuire, who runs the store on weekdays, said it was hard to say goodbye to everyone.
"People are just sad. It's a sad day," she said.
Dave Blacker has owned the store for decades and declined to comment Monday on why it was closing.
McGuire said Tuesday it was a combination of factors. "It was just time," she said, without elaborating. She said she didn't know if it would reopen.
McGuire was the only one officially working at Carson's Tuesday, but she wasn't alone.
Dorothy Drucker of Ledyard wiped counters, picked up plates and rang people at the register. She said she'd known Blacker for years and he was a friend.
"It just doesn't seem possible," she said of the closing. "But that's life, right, in the big city?"
Customers' cars lined both sides of Main Street and nearby Pearl Street. Parents brought children in for one last ice cream, and people stuffed dollar bills into a cup by the register.
Michael Noel sat at the counter, waiting a good 15 minutes for scrambled eggs and toast. He said he hoped the restaurant would come back.
"I'm sure it'll probably be reopened," he said. "Hopefully, by the summer."
Barbara Servidio of Noank fought back tears after visiting the store. She remembered working as a waitress at Carson's at age 16, and said, "I've been going there all my life."
She sent an email to her friend, Coppelman, as soon as she heard.
Coppelman said her dog, Maya, introduced her to the diner. Coppelman and her husband had rented a cottage in Noank one summer, and as she walked Maya early one morning, she saw the store and stopped to look.
The dog clunked down on the porch as she got coffee. And for seven years after that, it became their routine.
Maya died in May.
On Tuesday, Coppelman poured her own coffee, split a corn muffin with her friend, then left so others could also enjoy a memory.
"It was a sadness you can't put into words," she said of her drive home.
"I touched that pillar where my Maya would have been and I realized that yet again, (it) is another ending."