Businesses find niche amid pandemic

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 7:52 PM EDT
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The people of Aroostook have long been known for their work ethic and determination. It’s those qualities that have many businesses - both old and new - looking to the future with optimism. Kathy McCarty has more on the resilience of entrepreneurs in a pandemic.

New and existing businesses are finding success in the pandemic, targeting niche markets - be it an atmosphere or product.

“I didn’t want to just sell sandwiches and pizza, I wanted to tell a story. I like to do that with all of my businesses. But I wanted to tell a story that a lot of people could relate to. With Burger Boy, the first word that comes to my head when I think of Burger Boy is the word ‘home.’ And I feel like a lot of people will associate that word here as well. I wanted to show the history of the base as well as bring good food and bring good service and consistent products to the area, and I think we’ve tackled all of those areas,” says Dustin Mancos, owner of B-52 Pizza & Subs in Limestone.

Hobbies are turning into business opportunities.

“I was looking to do something different and I always liked drawing on the computer and stuff, so I ended up ordering a CNC machine. And it started out in the garage and people seemed to like it and were buying stuff on facebook and stuff, so we wanted a place to show all the signs that we were making and the mall gave us a great opportunity to do it,” says Norman Hall, owner of Mainely Metal & Decor in Presque Isle.

The inability to have eat-in service led one restaurant owner to sell food via mail-order and to open a bakery.

“I found a place in town that worked really well. It was a good location, right by the library and the park. And in February - actually the last day or two of January, we were able to open up. We opened up a place that I had intended on selling mostly sweets and breads, but the demand has pushed really a lot more towards meals. A lot of people are coming in and purchasing single-serve meals,” says Damian Watson, owner of Brookside Inn in Smyrna Mills and Brookside Bakery in Houlton.

Providing necessities and convenience has been a factor for some.

“We were able to stay open during the pandemic because we had the pets and the pet food, so we were one of the essentials. Of course, we still needed to evolve and come up with some creative ideas to make enough money to keep the bills paid and the doors open, so we did a lot of - we offered the curbside pickup and we actually did have a lot of people wanting pets during the pandemic,” says Katie Sloat, owner of Serendipitous Dragonfly in Houlton.

Warmer weather brings with it a sense of optimism.

“We’re waiting for the summer people to come. The summer people are probably - probably boost our sales 50 percent. You know, they - they want places like the Co-Op where they can - they can come in and they can feel like they’re in an old-fashion store. They can buy local products, they can get good food, they can sit and have coffee, you know, they can just walk out the door and the market’s right there - the Community Market in the summertime. So things are looking up,” says Jane Torres, co-owner of County Co-Op and Farm Store in Houlton.

All agree, success is possible, even in a pandemic, if you find your place in the market. Kathy McCarty, NewsSource 8

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