Faces

Following The Footsteps Of Presidential Candidates

Robie's Country Store in Hooksett, N.H., is a regular campaign stop for presidential hopefuls. i i

hide captionRobie's Country Store in Hooksett, N.H., is a regular campaign stop for presidential hopefuls.

John W. Poole/NPR
Robie's Country Store in Hooksett, N.H., is a regular campaign stop for presidential hopefuls.

Robie's Country Store in Hooksett, N.H., is a regular campaign stop for presidential hopefuls.

John W. Poole/NPR

During our travels in New Hampshire, NPR photographer John Poole and I decided to make the same stop that many presidential candidates fit into their pre-primary Granite State schedules: Robie's Country Store in Hooksett, just north of Manchester.

Future President Jimmy Carter famously visited here in 1975 during his first campaign, and lore has it that Lloyd Robie, whose family owned the store from 1887 to 1997, coined the phrase, "Jimmy who?" during that visit.

When we arrived on a weekday just four days before the New Hampshire primary, we found Zach Banks behind the deli counter, longtime local postal carrier Ron Ball ordering lunch, and an old-time general store chock-a-block with political memorabilia and fading photographs of the Robie family and politicians who walked the creaky wood floors.

Postal carrier Ron Ball, "one of those New Hampshire independents," says he's undecided at the moment. i i

hide captionPostal carrier Ron Ball, "one of those New Hampshire independents," says he's undecided at the moment.

John W. Poole/NPR
Postal carrier Ron Ball, "one of those New Hampshire independents," says he's undecided at the moment.

Postal carrier Ron Ball, "one of those New Hampshire independents," says he's undecided at the moment.

John W. Poole/NPR

Walls are papered with campaign swag, bumper stickers and historic artifacts collected over the life of the store. So, naturally, the conversation turned to politics.

"I am one of those New Hampshire independents," Ball, a mail carrier for 25 years, told us. "I'm a voter. But I'm really undecided right now."

Political memorabilia fill the old-time general store. i i

hide captionPolitical memorabilia fill the old-time general store.

John W. Poole/NPR
Political memorabilia fill the old-time general store.

Political memorabilia fill the old-time general store.

John W. Poole/NPR

What he does know is he's delivered a lot of campaign literature in the past few days for two of the GOP candidates — Mitt Romney, the front-runner, and Ron Paul, who is counting on a strong second place showing.

Romney last fall gave a speech outside the store, on the National Register of Historic Places, and Jon Huntsman has been by, too, Banks told us. Banks' in-laws, Debbie and Dave Chouinard, have run the operation for about eight years, on lease from the Robie's Country Store Historic Preservation Corp.

Lloyd Robie's wife, Dorothy, well into her 90s, still lives up the street, Banks told us, and if we'd had the time, we'd love to have sat down with her and listened to her stories of days gone by here on the Merrimack River.

As we headed for the door, Ball took a break from polishing off his egg-and-bacon sandwich to remind us: "New Hampshire picks presidents!" We could think of one former Massachusetts governor who is counting on that.

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