Small Business Saturday highlights the success of a handful of new stores on Gardiner’s Main Street

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Gardiner – Exemplifying the spirit of shopping small on Small Business Saturday, Gardiner has grown in popularity and grown quite a bit over the past year with the addition of several storefronts on Main Street.

Gardiner’s began its day at the downtown Winter Market and runs through the weekend until Christmas Eve at the former Gardiner’s Food Co-Op location. The launch was well timed with Small Business Saturday, which is traditionally celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Just as Black Friday encourages people to shop retail, Small Business Saturday encourages the community to shop at small and local businesses.

Gardiner has seen a number of local stores pop up over the past year; Including Stone Broken Bread and Books, Pistil and Page and Selene’s Fly Shop, all reported good success on Gardiner’s Main Street in their first year and chose to locate in Gardiner because of the potential they saw in the city.

Much of their prediction was correct — on Saturday, downtown stores were flooded with shoppers, with Céline Frohmberg describing the Céline Fly store as “triple” the amount of traffic typically seen on a regular weekend on Gardiner’s Main Street.

Main Street in Waterville is a hive of activity during Small Business Saturdays. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

The same holiday spirit continued in Waterville as residents and visitors chose holiday favorites from among the 38 local businesses participating in Shop Small Saturday. An annual event hosted by the Maine-Maine Chamber of Commerce, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is considered special in Waterville.

“As a small business owner, I always feel supported,” said Ames Sirway, owner of Framemakers, a small business based on Waterville’s Main Street. Sirway, who has been in the business for about 10 years, said people’s reactions to local businesses have changed in that time. “The mindset of buying small was with a lot of people, especially after the pandemic,” Sirway said.

For Searway, the support from the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce has been very rewarding. “They’re always nice and very supportive of local businesses,” Sirway said.

Malcolm Porter, owner of the downtown candy store, Incense and Peppermint, expressed a similar view. For Porter, the holiday season is all about supporting local businesses. “Local businesses help the local economy, and that’s why they should be supported,” Porter said.

Rachael M. Rolson fixes loaves of bread Saturday at her shop, Stone Broke Bread & Books, on Water Street in downtown Gardiner. The store at the corner of Water and Bridge streets was celebrating its first anniversary in small business Saturday. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

Back in Gardiner, the grand opening of the Winter Market for Small Business was just one of the events taking place Saturday. Stone Broken Bread and Books celebrates one year of the bakery and small print bookstore.

Owners Rachel M Rolson and Joshua Rolson Although they had wanted to open a shop in Gardiner for years, they couldn’t find a location that suited their needs for a commercial kitchen. It was perfect when a place opened on the corner of Main Street next to A1 Diner. The bakery offers a subscription-based bread service in addition to fresh breads available in-store. M. Rollson They said their registration-based service is at capacity with 70 registrants and five spots remaining.

“There’s a lot of potential (in Gardiner). It’s beautiful, it’s on a beautiful river front, the (Johnson) Theater is coming back — there’s a renaissance coming and we feel the potential, so we waited,” M. Rolson said.

Other new businesses cited Gardiner’s location as a major reason for choosing to set up shop there, such as Selene Fly Fishing, owned by Froehmberg, known to the fly fishing community as the “Selene of Maine.” She chose to open her shop in Gardiner to fly to the city with Lake Coboseconte, the Kennebec River and various other bodies of water. She said many people entered the store on Saturday.

Brightly colored fly tying supplies were on display Saturday at Celine’s fly tying shop on Water Street in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

Her shop opened a year ago, but took a new location across from Johnson Hall and offers tools for fly fishing enthusiasts, educational opportunities and local Maine guides who hire their customers tips and tricks for their fly fishing journey. Her store won third place behind LLB and Dick’s Sporting Goods Central Maine Reader’s Choice Awards.

“It reminds me of when Portland’s Old Port was booming,” she said. “Gardiner is in full bloom, just before Johnson Hall opens and we’re ready to go into full bloom. All the businesses are ready for that – it’s an exciting time for downtown Gardiner.

Alex Smith opened her specialty plant and home decor store Pistil & Page in April and sees customers from Belfast, Skowigan and Portland.

On Saturday, people were in and out of the store, arranging various foods, air plants and Christmas decorations for sale.

“I live in Portland, so I have a network and friends who come, but[customers]feel very local and sometimes come from as far away as Belfast or Skowhegan on the weekends,” Smith said. “I think being a little crossroads brings people from everywhere.”

After starting to make wreaths at Chadwick’s Ghosts in Pittston, Andrea Geese and Hayley Palecchi decided to stop in Gardiner and were delighted with the stores Gardiner had to offer. The couple decided to spend the rest of the day shopping before heading home to Boston.

“It’s so beautiful,” Giese said of Gardiner’s Main Street. “It’s very easy for me to be happy with this historic architecture.”

The Winter Market can be seen reflected in the circular mirror on Water Street in downtown Gardiner on Saturday. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

Tamara Whitmore, executive director of the nonprofit Gardiner Main Street, believes seven or eight new businesses have moved to Main Street in the past year. Several other food-related stores have opened, including Bintleaf Corner Brewery, Goldfinch Creamery Cafe, Table Bar and Scrummy Afters Candy Shoppe, which relocated from Hallowell.

“We see people from Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania travel to Gardiner and bring people to see this part of the community,” Whitmore said. “I think people see an opportunity here.”

For the winter market, Gardiner received a $60,000 grant from the Maine Downtown Center to help pay for the rent for the Main Street Market.

The winter market is open every weekend until December 24 Local businesses – Meadowsweet Bakery and Kitchen, Out of My Head Designs, Pickle Cures, Ledgeway and 5 beads handmade.

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