Requiem for a Deal

We'll never forget the first time we stepped into a Renys department store. It was in downtown Biddeford, and to The Maven's pint-size self, it was a magical wonderland — full of games and toys that a 7-year-old could actually afford on her allowance.

Over time, Renys became a part of The Maven's family routine. We would go there every summer for beach toys and water shoes. We'd go back every fall for back-to-school shopping. In the winter, we'd grab stocking-stuffers. And in the spring, we'd always check Renys first for deals on garden goodies.

A few years back, The Maven's mom made it her mission to visit every Renys in the state ("They're each a little different," she'll tell you). When she was little, The Maven's sister made a hand-drawn sign for her bedroom door that read, "Save your pennies, shop at Renys."  It's as much of a family tradition as Grandma's mac and cheese with tomato or Aunt Kathy's legendary pre-Christmas party.

So we were devastated to learn that Robert "R.H." Reny passed away last Friday at the age of 83. We never met him (though we did talk to him once on the phone), but it felt like he was part of the family. Not only was he a retail genius — selling high-quality products at discount prices long before the big-boxes hit the scene — he was a prodigy in other ways, as well. According to his online obit at, Reny grew up in Biddeford and enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school. The Navy sent him to Dartmouth College, where he completed a four-year program in two years. After a tour in the Navy and a foray in the Boston retail scene, he returned to Maine.

Sixty years ago, he founded Renys in Damariscotta, and the chain grew to include 14 stores throughout the state, mostly in downtowns — another reason to love him. The rest, of course, is history.

In the Kennebec Journal's obit, Farmington store employee Pat Reynolds sums up Reny's contribution well:

"He knew, in Maine, the economy's not as good as other places; and he knew that people lived paycheck to paycheck, basically," Reynolds said. "He always wanted to pass on the best deals he could."

For that, we are thankful. And we hope Renys will continue to be a part of the family tradition for many years to come. 


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