An avid traveler who fell in love with England and Ireland, Robert “Bob” Bussey of Bath, Maine, runs a British goods store called Bridgham and Cook Ltd.
A change of plans
Bussey, 62, who received a diagnosis of ALS in September 2000, worked in the Freeport store from its opening in 1987 until 2003, when he began using a wheelchair and could no longer get into the congested store. From that point on, he’s run his store from home with his laptop computer, while Anne, his wife of 18 years, and a devoted staff of nine, hold down the shop.
Now paralyzed except for the good range-of-motion of his head, Bussey still uses his laptop from his bed to choose which products to sell, order products, and do inventory control for the store. He runs the store, checks his e-mail and reads the newspaper with a hands-free program that allows him to control the cursor by moving his head.
Because his speech is difficult to understand, Bussey’s computer is programmed with communication software that activates a voice with a British accent.
Determined to succeed
Today, Bridgham and Cook Ltd., opened by Bussey and his brother, Bill, carries groceries, clothing, toiletries, pub gear and gifts popular in England and Ireland and has a steady flow of local customers and visitors from across the country.
Customers also shop and order online at www. britishgoods.com. The store has thousands of online regulars from the United States and Canada as well as the occasional shopper from another continent. Many online regulars are British or Irish customers who live in the United States and miss the food and specialty items they grew accustomed to in their native countries.
From the success of Bridgham and Cook Ltd., you’d never guess that an electrical fire in September damaged all of the store’s merchandise and the building itself. A new location was found two days later. Anne took digital photographs of the new space and showed them to Bussey, who used them to redesign his store on his laptop.
It turned out that the new store location was larger and easy to spot from the street, whereas the old store was tucked around a corner and hard to find. The new one is right on Main Street.
“This new edition of the store is so beautiful and successful that everyone associated with it, most especially Anne and me, is feeling rejuvenated, as if it’s a totally new enterprise,” says Bussey. “I feel a great deal of satisfaction in its rebuilding, even though I am motionless in bed.
“It would be wonderful if every ALS patient could continue to feel such feelings, however that may happen.”