The sign outside the shop at 18 Main Street, Vinalhaven, features a white-bearded old man reading a newspaper, and the words “The Paper Store,” indicating that one can buy a newspaper here. However, few may realize that The Paper Store’s official name is Vinal’s News Stand, and has been for 140 years.

Back in 1871, David Vinal started his newsstand a few doors down from where it operates today, in what is now Robert Indiana’s Star of Hope building. The business eventually passed to David’s son, A.B. Vinal, and, for the most part, stayed in the Vinal family until 1980. At that time, owners Merlene and Ken Morton moved Vinal’s News Stand to its current location. In 1985, current owner Carlene Michael and her husband Jerry bought the business. Michael has run the News Stand for 26 years.

It is highly unusual for a small business on a small island to be run continuously for well over a century. So what is the secret to The Paper Store’s success? Newspapers have been the biggest consistent draw, Michael says. However, she admits that the papers are really just a small part of her business. “You don’t make a lot of money on newspapers,” she said. The Paper Store also stocks plenty of stationary supplies and gifts. Years ago, it was one of the only gift shops on the island, which may have helped contribute to its longevity.

Michael and her daughter, Karen Candage, who also works at The Paper Store, like to think that it’s the good service they provide their customers that really makes their business successful. “It’s the little things like saving papers for people and knowing the customers,” said Candage. Michael added “and welcoming them back each summer, knowing them by name.” Michael has a trusting relationship with her customers as well, often leaving her side door open for after-hours pick up of newspapers or helium balloons that have been ordered.

Longevity is not The Paper Store’s only claim to fame. In fact, Vinal’s New Stand is one of the top three dealers of the New York Times in the state of Maine. However, it wasn’t always so. Several years ago, Michael said, she had trouble getting her supplier to send as many copies as she needed each week. One Sunday, Michael waited on a customer who asked for a New York Times. She told him he couldn’t have one because all her copies were spoken for; she didn’t have enough. The man said to Michael “Tell me why you’re not getting enough.” Michael explained that her supplier wouldn’t send them to her. The man replied, “You won’t have this problem again.”

“I won’t?” asked Michael, confused. “Who are you?”

“I am the Circulation Regional Manager for the New York Times,” said the man. “I send enough to the state of Maine that you should be getting the numbers you want.”

“Is your name God?” Michael replied. The man chuckled and introduced himself as David Chanler. Chanler subsequently made the appropriate phone calls, and the next time Michael called her supplier, she got the number she wanted. That summer it was 300 copies.

“The whole thing blows my mind,” said Michael, “because what were the chances of this man coming into this store on this island? He’s always been really good to me.”

During her time as proprietor of The Paper Store, Michael has also had several brushes with celebrity. One summer Julia Childs came into the store. “We immediately knew who she was,” said Michael. “She was very tall and had a big presence.” Childs asked “Do you save the New York Times?” According to Michael, at that moment, the heads of every customer in the store turned to look at Childs. Michael answered “yes.” Childs responded by giving her name, and Michael said, “Yes, I know who you are.” The next summer Childs came back asking for the peanut butter fudge Michael sells in the summer. Childs told Michael it was the best peanut butter fudge she had ever had.

Another time “this man came into the store with his children,” Michael said. Based on his appearance, Michael assumed he was a member of a large, well-known family of summer residents. “He called to his children, told them he wanted to get going, bought them what they wanted and left.” Afterward, Michael heard her employee, Joleen Swears, giggling in the back room and asked what was so funny. “Do you know who that was?” Swears asked Michael. “Yes, that was Paul’s brother,” she replied. “No,” said Swears, “that was Billy Joel!”

“I think it’s amazing that the business has been around for this long and in just two locations,” said Michael. However, in recent years, Michael has seen a decline in the sale of newspapers as more people get their news from digital sources. “I think it’s going to hurt,” said Candage. Michael added, “Because it draws people in.” Candage said, “It’s up to us to figure out how to compensate for it. Staying ahead of technology. That’s the key.”