Bangor Daily News

Hannaford plays an essential role in this family’s love story

Valerie Royzman

It was 1982 when Sara Ellis’ parents fell in love while working at a Hannaford in Bangor. Twenty-two years later, it’s where her own love story began. 

Ellis was a student at Orono High School when one day in 2004 she visited her mother, Brenda Stout, at the Hannaford store where she worked. Stout introduced her to Todd Ellis, a young associate in the produce department. They became co-workers when Sara Ellis joined the staff as a service clerk about six months later.

It was roughly a year later that Todd Ellis began pursuing her, which took some time because she wasn’t sure if she was interested. But he was funny and persistent, and Sara Ellis remembers the night she called her best friend to say, “Oh my god, I think I have feelings for Todd.”

They dated for almost a year, but the relationship didn’t last. A decade went by, during which Sara Ellis got a divorce, before they reconnected at a Fourth of July party that his parents were hosting. They were good friends for a few years before committing to something bigger, then marrying in 2018.

While plenty of couples have met as Hannaford employees, it’s not likely that their love stories and dedication to the company span across generations like this one. The family has more than 100 years of combined service to the company, including Sara and Todd Ellis, her parents and her brother, Ben Stout.

“I love our story,” Todd Ellis, 39, said. “It has its own unique history.”

Hannaford Supermarkets is based in Scarborough and has nearly 30,000 associates. The company operates more than 180 stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Sara and Todd Ellis celebrated five years of marriage last month with a photoshoot at the store in Old Town, donning matching black T-shirts that read, “Love brought to you by Hannaford.”

There’s a photograph where they’re kissing near the baked goods and another, next to the butter and eggs, where they’re smiling big next to their boys. They have two sons: 2-year-old Wyatt and Andre, who is 16 months old.

Sara Ellis, 35, and her husband no longer work at Hannaford, but it’s often that they run into former co-workers and people who knew Sara Ellis as a “Hannaford baby” and watched her grow up, she said.

She remembers stopping by Hannaford to show off her Halloween costume to her mother before going trick-or-treating with her father. The company hosted a softball tournament, annual summer party and other events for employees and their families, she said.

“Those were the things I looked forward to every year,” she said. “Hannaford was a huge staple in my life. It’s not necessarily about the store but more about the community.”

Sara Ellis is a medical assistant at DownEast Orthopedics in Bangor. Todd Ellis works as a supervisor at nonprofit NFI North, which provides behavioral and mental health services.

Her parents have each spent more than 40 years at Hannaford and still work for the company — at the Union Street store, where Sara and Todd Ellis met.

Brenda and Scott Stout, who live in Glenburn in the house where they raised their children, locked eyes while working at the Hannaford store on Broadway in 1982, then their story unfolded, their daughter said. They had their first date at Miller’s Restaurant and the Bangor State Fair. They married in 1985.

“Most people think our story is kind of cute,” Sara Ellis said. “In the Bangor area, we can go to any of the stores, and there’s a good chance we’ll run into somebody who knows us or my parents.”