This Famous Campaign Stop Is Actually A Mirage
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And now let's visit a place that you might be seeing as a backdrop on your television screens in the coming months. It's Robie's Country Store in Hooksett, N.H. It's one of those ritual stops where anyone who wants to be president is pretty much guaranteed to make an appearance. As New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers reports, business is not what it once was, but the presidential hopefuls keep showing up.
JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: Robie's Country Store stood on the west bank of the Merrimack River, halfway between Concord and Manchester, since 1887. When the candidates get there, most know what's expected. Lindsey Graham sure did when he came calling.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, this is the place you have to stop to say you really politicked in New Hampshire. Everybody tells me that.
ROGERS: From its worn wood floors and tin ceiling to the walls covered in decades worth of political memorabilia, Robie's looks like a stage set for old-fashioned retail politicking. And when locals talk to reporters, they know the drill.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK.
ROGERS: Old-timers, like Bob Collins, recall the Yankee charm of Lloyd Robie, the store's long-dead, fifth-generation proprietor. The most famous Lloyd Robie story is from 1975.
BOB COLLINS: And you know that Lloyd said - when Jimmy Carter came in here, they said - this is Jimmy Carter. He said Jimmy who? And that was Lloyd.
ROGERS: But don't actually try to buy milk and eggs here. The store closed for business in 2013. These days, Robie's is usually only open when there's a presidential candidate in town. Robie's reputation as a political stop has given Hooksett an outsized presence in the media every four years. Bob Schroeder leads a local preservation group that now owns the store.
BOB SCHROEDER: I've sat and talked with BBC. I've talked with Japan television, Dutch Television. It goes on and on. And it's just been a lot of fun.
ROGERS: But Schroeder says it's been hard to find the right person to reopen Robie's and make it work as a business.
B. SCHROEDER: The combination that we're looking for is somebody that will run a country store, have guests and whatever along with the milk, butter and eggs and keep it going.
ROGERS: And even with Robie's closed, the place is still doing a brisk trade in would-be presidents. At least five Republican candidates have already dropped by this year, including Jeb Bush. He was there to tape an interview with Fox News behind closed doors. And as quaintly New Hampshire as Robie's already is, someone - maybe from Fox, maybe from the Bush campaign, opinions differ - apparently tried to make it more so. Carolyn Schroeder, Bob's wife, says they wanted to have a chalk-written message in the backdrop.
CAROLYN SCHROEDER: They said well, why don't we put on that sign over there - why don't we put Robie's Country Store? I said Robie's.
ROGERS: Whoever the offending party was, they may get a chance to make amends. As Jeb Bush left his Fox interview, he told onlookers he plans to return to Robie's sometime soon. For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Concord, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.