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Getchell Bros.: 123 years making freezing-cold ice a red-hot commodity By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS

Of all the ice-harvesting companies that existed in Maine in the late 1800s in Maine, today only Getchell Bros. survives. In the late 1880s, there were about 80 ice companies on the Penobscot and Kennebec Rivers, with Penobscot-based companies maintaining icehouses between Bangor and Bucksport. One iceman listed in the 1889 Maine Business Directory was George W. Getchell of Brewer. Perhaps George stoked the minds of his sons, Frederick and John Calvin, into entering the ice business, which they did in 1888, when Calvin was 14 and Fred 15. They formed Getchell Bros., initially working out of their home on Maple Street in Brewer. Right away, the brothers did things differently. Where other ice dealers delivered ice covered in dirt and sawdust, the brothers became the first dealers to wash their ice first. The business soon added woods of all kinds “prepared and in the stick,” as advertised in 1895, and coal by 1899. As New York’s Charles and Hudson Rivers became polluted, Maine ice became more popular. But the Penobscot was also polluted, so the brothers secured exclusive rights to cut ice above Bull’s Eye Bridge on the much cleaner Kenduskeag Stream. In 1903 the company proudly advertised “Bull’s Eye Bridge Pure ‘Washed’ Ice.” By 1904, after just 16 years in business, the brothers’ plant in Brewer could hold 8,000 tons of ice, and their Kenduskeag plant could store 7,000. By then, they’d gotten out of coal, and

More of the Getchell family delivered ice with 24 horses became involved through the pulling 12 wagons. 1920s and 1930s. Fred and Refrigeration Cools Calvin’s sisters, Mattie and Olive, the Ice Business became bookkeepers. Mattie had When businesses began invest- worked there in grade school, ing in refrigeration, many ice and became assistant treasurer by suppliers folded due to reduced 1936, on her way to a 62-year demand. Getchell Bros. picked career at the company. up the slack and diversified. It Constant Reinvention formed a brick division in 1906 During the Great Depression, in a 34-acre brickyard on Blake Street in Brewer. Annual produc- the company marketed itself with tion was 3 million bricks per slogans like “Not just ice but year, a hefty percentage of the service” in 1933 and “Save with Maine brick industry, which had ice and give local men employpeaked at 93 million bricks in ment” in 1934. In 1935, the com1889 but was waning. By 1909, pany began selling Coolerator Getchell Bros. no longer sold iceboxes, and the following year, when nephew Ralph Getchell Jr. wood. By 1912, the company had joined the business as a salesman, relocated to 44 Oak Street in the company began heavily proBangor; the bricks were gone by moting “ice and refrigeration.” By 1919. The company began deliv- 1937, its advertisement proering to residences as well as claimed, “Nothing protects food businesses by 1921. Deliverymen flavor like ice refrigeration.” But true compressor-based began work around 2 a.m. at the Oak Street barn, getting their refrigeration didn’t happen until horse teams on the road to the 1946 with the new manufacturicehouses beyond Bull’s Eye ing plant at 1 Union Street in Bridge by 2:45. They’d load their Brewer. World War II had ended carts with 24-26 ice blocks of with Ralph Jr. the manager at 200-250 pounds each, and return Getchell Bros. and, with the comto town by 6 a.m. They delivered pany diversifying into fuel and first to restaurants, then homes. range oils, its new plant could Residents left white cards in their produce 60 tons of ice daily. The windows: A card on end meant to company harvested its last natuleave a small block; on its long ral ice in February 1954. In 1952, the company brought edge, a large block. Deliverymen chopped the ice to size right in in business veteran Walter Crosstheir wagons, and the ice lasted man as treasurer. Crossman’s career as a wood dealer dated four or five days. The men worked six-day back nearly 50 years, and he’d weeks and some half-days on also served as the treasurer for Sunday to cover the restaurants. Graham Clothing Co. in Bangor They sometimes worked 100- from 1933 until his 1944 retirehour weeks with no overtime ment. He came out of retirement pay, earning $4 a day in the win- to work at Getchell Bros., the ter and $3 a day in the summer. company’s first and only nonEventually, Getchell Bros. family investor. Crossman proreplaced their stable of 50 horses vided cash that helped keep the and wagons with 10 Ford Model company alive. Around 1958, after 70 years at T trucks.


Top: In the early days, Getchell Bros. delivered ice in wagons. The iceman’s tools of the trade included ice tongs and an ice pick. The icemen chopped ice into blocks for customers. This photo is from the early 1900s. Above: Rows of ice-delivery trucks and deliverymen pose outside the Oak Street, Bangor office of Getchell Bros. This was after the company replaced all their horses and wagons with trucks.

the helm, Fred and J. Calvin retired, and Ralph Jr. bought the company. In 1964, the company bought Barton’s Venetian Blinds,

which had been in business since the business, overseeing the about 1947. That year, Willard blinds division. Farnham, who had married See GETCHELL, Page 6 Ralph’s daughter Louise, joined

This supplement was produced and published by the

Editor/Layout: David M. Fitzpatrick Writers: David M. Fitzpatrick, Greg Westrich


Jamie Wood, who has worked at Getchell Bros. for 10 years, pulls ice from the bagger and stacks it on pallets in early December 2010. Human hands never touch the ice during the manufacturing process. This is a slow winter day for the company, which produces as much ice in one hot July day as it does in the entire month of January.

Photos: Some photos by David M. Fitzpatrick and Bangor Daily news staff. Others were provided by Richard Shaw or the featured businesses, or acquired from historical texts. Cover Design: Michele Prentice Sales: Jeff Orcutt If you’d like to celebrate the longevity of your business in next year’s Maine’s Progressive Business supplement, or if you’d like to create a targeted Special Section for your organization, contact Jeff Orcutt at (207) 990-8036 or

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Maine’s Progressive Business

Cyan Magenta Yellow Black BANGOR DAILY NEWS - MAINE’S PROGRESSIVE BUSINESS | Friday | January 14, 2011 | 3

Marlene’s Uniform Shop: 52 years, 3 generations of ‘uniform’ service By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS

In 1959, it was rare for a woman to start a business. Now imagine a woman starting a business in 1959 that’s still flourishing in 2011. That’s exactly the case with Marlene Thomas. After high school, Thomas moved to New York City to study at the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting, which had schooled the likes of Marlon Brando. After some time there, while doing some modeling and summer-stock theater, Thomas decided not to pursue Hollywood stardom after all, and returned to Maine to settle down. In Bangor, her mother ran a beauty salon, which in those days had specific uniforms, much like restaurant waitresses and nurses. But the beauticians had trouble finding them. Her mother suggested she open a uniform shop, and Thomas took her advice. “I didn’t realize when I opened the shop that it was anything for a woman to have a business, but you didn’t see that 52 years ago,” she said. Thomas opened Marlene’s Uniform Shop on Hammond Street across from the YMCA, but trouble struck the following year: the place flooded, ruining everything. She had to start all over again a few doors down, in part of the Bangor Furniture building. Primarily, the store supplied medical workers, restaurant wait staff, and beauticians in snug-fitting, starched outfits. There were few men’s uniforms, aside from kitchen workers’ aprons. The restaurant business was big, with clients statewide.

The Changing Times Styles changed, with polyester blends eliminating the need for starch. “As things

changed, you had to get with the program or you’d be out of business,” she said. Back then, it was a man’s world, and Thomas wasn’t taken seriously. She tried to join the downtown merchants’ association, but the man who headed it wasn’t interested because he thought her business wouldn’t last. Ten years later, he decided she was there to stay. Those same challenges were presented when Marlene became just the second female real-estate agent in the area in the early 1970s, a supplemental career she did for about 10 years. In the beginning, she often wasn’t taken seriously in the field. But back to the 1960s. By 1965, Thomas moved to 108 Hammond Street, but that building sold a year and a half later. Once again, the young business had to relocate. There was no mall-area option then; Downtown Bangor was the hub of business, but she couldn’t find anywhere. She finally settled on a less-than-ideal spot on the second floor of a building, over Laverdiere’s drug store on Main Street. That was home for about eight years, until she had to move again due to urban renewal. During that tenure, Thomas saw the biggest style change of her life when women’s pants came out of New York City. She learned of the radical idea from a salesman who stopped at her store, telling her they were the next big thing. But Thomas knew Bangor was too conservative, and turned him down. Just a week later, she had to call him. “I said, ‘I’ve had eight calls this week from people that are talking about the new uniform pantsuits — you’d better send me some,’” she said. “[I] never thought it would go over. We had to get with the program there, too.” In 1972, Thomas moved around the corner to 72 Colum-

bia Street in 1972, where she’d stay for nearly two decades. Business boomed. By 1976, she had expanded the store’s offerings to include swimsuits. (This was thanks to Thomas being one of the original members of the Dolphins Synchronized Swim Team. When the team’s coaches returned to New York after four years, Thomas took over the team, renamed it the Flamingos Synchronized Swimming Group, and coached it for the next 32 years.) Entering into the swimsuit business saw Thomas rename the business Marlene’s Uniform and Swim Suit Shop. Marlene’s was the official Speedo dealer in the area; thanks to Speedo-wearing swimmer Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics, Speedo was popular. At its peak, the swimsuit craze accounted for half the store’s business. A second location came in 1979, at the Twin City Plaza in Brewer, finding strong business with Canadian shoppers flocked there for good uniform and swimsuit deals. That location lasted until 1983. Meanwhile, she opened a store in Portland, off Congress Street. She later sold that store to an employee. Around 1986, Marlene’s expanded in Bangor, taking over the adjacent space that had been occupied by Rita’s Beauty Salon since 1958. The swimsuit craze died down, and competition from retail chains made them tougher sells, so by 1988 the company once again became Marlene’s Uniform Shop. Since 1993, Marlene’s has enjoyed its location at the Maine Square Mall, currently right next to Bull Moose. Today, the store carries a wide range of uniforms for men and women, including big and tall sizes. In the medical field, scrubs are the big thing, and they aren’t the same utilitarian scrubs they used to be; now,


Brielle Dickinson, granddaughter of founder Marlene Thomas, hangs scrubs shirts on the rack. At age 10, Brielle has already been helping out at Marlene’s Uniform Shop, and may represent the third generation of her family to run the store.


Marlene Thomas (center), is the founder of Marlene’s Uniform Shop. At left is her granddaughter Brielle Dickinson; at right is her daughter, Kim Dickinson.

they’re fashionable and chic, with 15 uniform lines. With more men in the health-care profession, male uniform scrubs and lab coats are big business. One of the most popular, stylish, and highquality lines for men and women is branded for the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.”

A Family Affair It’s truly a family business. Thomas’ husband, Philip, always helped out at the store. After he retired, he took on a more active role, doing daily paperwork, making deposits, and delivering merchandise. He died suddenly 10 years ago. And Marlene’s son and family, after years in the hotel business in Florida, moved to Portland and opened a uniform shop. Her daughter, Kim Dickinson, began helping at the store as a young girl. She recalled the time her parents were renovating the new Columbia Street location, and she was a bored 11-year-old stuck there. Doodling on the backs of business cards, she wrote on one “Help! I’m being held captive!” The next day, when a customer left the store with the card and discovered the note, the Bangor Police Department showed up at the store with search dogs. Embarrassing story aside, Dickinson worked the store through high school before moving to Florida. She worked at a uniform shop there for three years before returning to Maine, where she first worked selling for her mother in Portland before moving back to Bangor and taking a more active role in running the business. Dickinson spends much time on the road, traveling with uniforms to outlying medical facilities to take orders, which is very convenient for the clients, who

don’t have to take the time to drive to Bangor. “There’s always competition, and that’s why we try not to sit back and wait for people to come into the store,” Dickinson said. “We try to go out and be convenient for [those who] are not in this area.” Despite cheap competition everywhere, Dickinson says she has inexpensive lines and is very competitive, with scrubs tops starting at just nine dollars. “We have a price range for everybody,” Dickinson said. The future of the company seems secure, but Dickinson knows she has to work hard every day to get their products out there and combat online-sales outlets. She’d like to see small businesses in Maine make stronger efforts to keep the business local instead of heading straight for online venues on the assumption that it’s going to be cheaper. They certainly won’t get the same personal, one-on-one service, she says. So how is it for Thomas handing over the reins to her daughter? “She’s become my mother, and that’s what’s hard for me,” she said. “But as long as I’m able,

I don’t want to completely give up being at the shop.” Marlene Thomas recently turned 79. Kim Dickinson is 47, and Brielle, her 10-year-old daughter, who has spent much of her childhood at the store, is already eager to be a part of the family business. “I bag clothes and check out customers,” said Brielle. “Sometimes I answer the phone and tag uniforms... I just like that my family owns a business, so I get to come here and help a lot.” She agreed that it was something special that her grandmother started a business 52 years ago, when it wasn’t usual for women to be in business, and is still running it today. And she summed it all up quite nicely: “I love my grandmother.” Brielle’s mother concurs. “I’m very proud of my mother, of her accomplishments — starting the business when she did, when not many women in that era were working, even, or having their own businesses,” said Dickinson. “I’m just very proud of her, that she’s still working and loves what she does and that the business is still going strong.”

An ad from a 1960s Bangor City Directory.

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Bangor Y: 144 years of service, a recent merger, and a very bright future Branch Lake in Ellsworth in 1925 where it continues today.

By Greg Westrich For 144 and 97 years respectively, the Bangor YMCA and YWCA Bangor Brewer were separate organizations that served as leaders in promoting health and wellness for all in Greater Bangor. After a long collaborative history, the two organizations joined forces in 2004 and merged in 2008. Now at one location at 17 Second Street, the Bangor Y looks forward to building on the rich traditions of both organizations to serve the community.

The Origin of the Bangor YMCA The Bangor Y’s roots date at least to 1843 when Governor Edward Kent and others formed the Bangor Young Men’s Bible Society. During the Civil War, it banded together with similar organizations to help alleviate the suffering of the war. Impressed with national YMCA leaders they met on the battlefields, several Society members joined with other citizens in May 1867 to become the Bangor YMCA. The organization officially received its charter from the national YMCA on Jan. 1, 1881. In 1891, the Bangor YMCA opened its first dedicated building at the corner of Court and Hammond Streets. Over time, the building was renovated and expanded to meet the community’s changing needs. The residency program begun in 1890 was eventually eliminated, and new pools, a fitness center, racquetball courts, and a climbing wall were later added. The first Neighborhood Club was established in 1946, a predecessor of the Bangor Y’s current Neighborhood Clubs. The YMCA’s resident camp, Camp Jordan, begun in Enfield in 1908, moved to the shores of

The Origin of the YWCA According to Julia Eaton’s history of the Bangor-Brewer YWCA, “The First 75 Years,” the organization was founded in 1914, growing out of the Girls’ Welfare Rooms, located above Lufkin’s Confectionery, begun two years earlier. Bangor, still a rough city, could be a dangerous place for women travelling alone, but many young women were drawn to Bangor’s employment opportunities. YWCA Travelers Aid representatives met young women arriving by train or boat and escorted them safely to the YWCA where they could get room, 15-cent dinners, and Christian instruction. In 1918 the YWCA moved to the Coe Building at the corner of Main and Cross Sreets, which provided space for a large dining room, kitchen, sleeping rooms, and a gym. When the Coe block burned on February 13, 1927, the fire destroyed $1 million in real estate and the belongings of the women living at the YWCA. The next day, the YWCA board met in space the YMCA provided. The YMCA also provided program space, forming the organizations’ first collaboration. In March, the YWCA rented space at 77 Columbia Street until a new YWCA building at Union and Second Streets was completed in 1929. During the Depression, YWCA activities emphasized services for women and girls. There was an employment agency, Traveler’s Aid, shelter, showers and baths, and reading rooms open to both women and men. The YMCA provided aquatics programming from 1935 until 1972, when the Means Pool was completed at the YWCA. Day care, after-school,


A colorized photo of the YMCA building on Hammond Street, which was constructed in 1891. The gymnasium in this building survives today on the Court Street side of the current structure, built in 1969-1970.

and teen programming were also added at the YWCA and continue today.

Working Together with Similar Missions The missions of both the YWCA and the YMCA had always emphasized the connection between spiritual and physical health. Exercise and recreation were integral parts of their programs, and in the 1920s camping became an important factor. The YMCA had Camp Jordan, which the YWCA rented in 1922 in Enfield and again in 1927 at Branch Lake. In 1925, the YWCA rented Hooper’s Camps on Phillips Lake for 12 girls. In 1930 a YWCA summer camp began in Sorrento, running for


Bangor Y staff, board members and other members of the Y community broke ground for the new parking lot at the Bangor Y's Second Street Location Thursday morning, September 23, 2010. The Bangor Y purchased several properties on Sanford Street, the next street up from Second. These properties abut the Y property, and the houses were demolished to make way for the expansion.

nine seasons until moving to Camp Tanglewood in the Camden Hills in 1939. After the 1970 season, the camp closed. By then, day camping had eclipsed resident camping as the summer recreation of choice. The YMCA had built its first day camp near where Bangor High School sits today in 1944. Camp Prentiss later moved to Hampden and renamed Camp G. Peirce Webber. In 1973, Camp Prentiss held its first girls’ program, Camp Suvaca, and in 1974 all Camp Prentiss programs were co-ed. Today, day campers enjoy swimming, baseball, rope courses, archery, crafts, and more. The first YWCA day camp was PHOTO COURTESY OF RICHARD SHAW held in 1943 at the YWCA faciliThe YWCA baseball team, circa 1900, posing outside the 1891 building. ty and used the YMCA pool. The YWCA started Camp Goodtimes

had often combined their fundraising efforts. In 2004 the two entered a three-year Affiliation Agreement to share resources, reduce costs, and expand programming. Blending the two missions into a Bangor Y culture was very successful. Maintaining separate charters with the YMCA and YWCA proved more difficult. So at the end of 2008, the groups merged as the Bangor YMCA, doing business as the Bangor Y. To use space and resources Moving Beyond most effectively and keep costs Cooperation down, it was clear that the BanIn 2002, the United Way — gor Y could best serve the comwhich helped fund many of the munity by consolidating into one two organizations’ programs — location. This led to the decision suggested the two groups considSee BANGOR Y, Page 7 er collaboration. They had been working together for years and in 1960 on Hurd Pond at the former Girl Scout camp; five years later, it was renamed Molly Molasses. Campers ages 6-12 were bussed from Bangor for activities including swimming, canoeing, sailing, camp crafts, cookouts, and hiking. The camp moved to its present location on Chemo Pond in the late 1970s. Camp Discovery, later called Travel Camp, began in 1969, and Kiddie Kamp began in 1973 for younger children.

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Bacon Printing: 139 years and four generations of putting ink to paper PHOTOS COURTESY OF BACON PRINTING CO.

By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS

The Bacon Printing Company’s official birth, according to an old rubber stamp there, is 1875. But its origins actually date to 1872, when a 16-year-old young man went into business for himself as a printer. John H. Bacon represented the ninth generation of his family in the area. His father, John A. Bacon, was a successful coal merchant whose business ventures date to 1854 in Bangor. The younger Bacon lived at his father’s Fourth Street home when he turned 16 in December 1872, and soon entered into the printing business, his father likely financing the purchase of a small job press. It wasn’t long before he soon sold that first machine and, with the profits, expanded his business. By 1879, he operated at Harlow Street and Kenduskeag Bridge, and by 1885 advertised as “John H. Bacon’s Job Printing Office.” In 1891, he advertised as a “book and job printer” and in 1895 as doing “fine job printing.” Downtown Bangor’s Great Fire on April 30, 1911 destroyed 267 buildings, damaged 100 others, and wiped out 55 acres. Bacon’s shop and machinery were among the losses; he suffered $5,000 in damages (about $114,000 in today’s dollars) with only $3,000 of insurance. But even that didn’t stop his commitment to his customers. For example, he’d done the daily menu cards for the Bangor House for 30 years, so he used job machines at the Bangor Daily Commercial to get them done. Bacon purchased new

Right: An early photo of Bacon Printing. The man second from the left is probably John H. Bacon, the company’s founder. Below right: A later picture. Judging from the arched windows, this shop is probably on the second floor, so this is likely at 22 State Street, where the business called home after the Great Fire of 1911 destroyed Bacon’s shop and equipment until 1936, when it relocated to Exchange Street.

machines and, for a few months, worked out of his barn before relocating to a second-floor shop at 22 State Street. By 1919, his son George was working with him as a printer, and when John died Feb. 13, 1921, his son Henry was also there. Henry had recently graduated high school and started his career hauling paper up the stairs and completed jobs down. Henry and George became the company owners. George and his wife, Georgia, settled in Hampden; Henry and his wife, Madeline, moved to a West Broadway home (where a family descendant lives to this day).

Technology Surges Forward The John Bacon Co. advertised its experience in Multigraphing in 1935. The Multigraph was a brand name for a typesetter and printer; lines of type were set on a cylinder, and the operator spun the handle to turn it, producing a finished page with every revolution. In the late 1940s, Henry bought out his brother, and in 1948, soon after graduating high school, Henry’s son John S. Bacon came aboard. His first job was as a bookkeeper, as Henry wanted him to know the books first. But the next most important thing, Henry told him, was to meet the customers, so John soon became a delivery boy. By 1957, Henry was listed as president and John as vice president,

and added treasurer and assistant treasurer to their respective duties the next year. The company changed its name to Bacon Printing, Inc. in 1960, when it moved to 91 Franklin. Henry’s wife Madeline joined the company as a figurehead vice president who wasn’t involved with daily operations. John remained as assistant treasurer. This would remain the case until 1972, when Madeline was no longer listed with the company. Henry was the vice president, and John had taken the reins as the president. The company expanded, encompassing 91-100 Franklin in 1977 and then moving to 1070 Hammond Street in April 1986. That location, at Odlin Road and I-395, had been the Jordan-Milton Caterpillar dealer, and at 24,000 square feet provided plenty of work space and ample room for warehousing customer product. At the time, a $175,000, three-color offset press was part of the $1 million plant. Henry worked there until his death in 1986; he’d come into work, go home for a nap, and then return to work some more. In 1988, the company was known as Bacon Print & Paper, including the Paper Cellar — the only area distributor of paper from Eastern Fine Paper in Brewer. The company was listed as providing “copy & computer See BACON, Page 8

An Interesting Historical Synchronicity It began with coal... and ended with oil There’s a strange synchronicity between two of our featured stories this year, both starting with John A. Bacon, the father of Bacon Printing Co.’s founder, John H. Bacon. John A. Bacon partnered with Charles H. Huckins as commission merchants dealing in coal and wood by 1869. Bacon & Huckins became Bacon, Robinson & Co. by 1882, taking on Judson H. Robinson and Charles F. Field. By 1901, Bacon’s father had died, and Field was running Bacon & Robinson. In 1933, Bacon & Robinson was still going strong selling coal and wood, with President Alfred J. Robinson at the helm. In 1945, Garrett D. Speirs headed Bacon & Robinson, selling coal, coke, and fuel oil. “Coke” was a product of coal distillation, used mainly as a metallurgical fuel to reduce metallic oxides to metals. By 1971, Robinson Speirs was the head of Bacon &

Robinson. Rewind a bit. One of Bacon & Huckins’ early competitors was the partnership of Stickney & Babcock, also dealers in coal. By 1903, according to the Bangor City Directory, Getchell Bros. was harvesting ice on the Kenduskeag above Bull’s Eye

Bridge, advertising their “Bull’s Eye Bridge Pure ‘Washed’ Ice.” But Getchell Bros. also dealt in coal, and in an advertisement, the Brewer company noted that its Bangor office was the Stickney & Babcock Coal Co. at 17 State Street. Fast forward to 1977. Bacon

& Robinson had been in business all that time, as had Stickney & Babcock. Bacon & Robinson had frequently advertised on the cover of the Bangor City Directory, with its black diamond logo, noting it sold “Oils – Heating and Fuel – Bulk Gas.” But in 1977, the logo advertised the merged company of “Bacon & Robinson — Stickney & Babcock” and listed them as “A Dead River Company.” John A. Bacon’s son, John H. Bacon, founded his printing company in the 1870s. The senior Bacon went on to build a major coal and wood company that lasted all the way to 1977. Meanwhile, one of his longtime competitors, Stickney & Babcock, also lasted through that time, even partnering with Getchell Bros. Today, Dead River claims the history of those two fuel companies, resulting in an odd bit of synchronicity with today’s Bacon Printing Co. and Getchell Bros.


Most of the current Bacon Printing staff poses in the pressroom for a photo. Shaun Gargan, Back (from left): John Thompson; Wayne Garvin; Nancy Reilly; Mary Sites; Judy Bacon Strout, co-owner and great-granddaughter of founder John H. Bacon; 51-year employee Dick McClay; Bill Sloan; and Kevin Grant. Front (from left): Dwight King; co-owner Carlton Strout.

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Fortier Electric: 75 years at least, but its roots date back even further By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS

Fortier Electric in Ellsworth has been in business for 75 years, but its origins predate that, to when Raymond Peavey and Edith Morrison Peavey first established the R.L. Peavey Electrical Shop on Main Street in Ellsworth in the 1920s. The 1928 city directory saw Peavey advertising as “Electrical Contractors; Lighting Fixtures – Appliances – Wiring; Agency for Frigidaire.” Edith served as the company’s bookkeeper. Disaster struck on March 14, 1930, in the form of Ellsworth’s infamous Hancock County Courthouse fire. Peavey and a fellow fireman with the Ellsworth Fire Department, Lester Salisbury, were killed when the belfry tower collapsed through the building to its basement. Also there was a firefighter named George Fortier, and, risking his life to search for the fallen men, George’s brother Peter Frederick “Fred” Fortier. Following the tragedy, Edith continued to run the store. She added a lending library and novelties, according to the 1931 city directory, but still sold electrical supplies. Fred Fortier began working for her as an electrician, and the two married in 1932. On May 7-8, 1933, another fire changed all of Ellsworth. It started in a theater and spread on stiff winds, destroying three-quarters of the downtown business district. The Peavey Electrical Shop

Getchell Continued from Page 2 The blinds evolved into the Getchell Bros. Window Covering Division by the late 1960s, adding in-home service and draperies to the mix. Meanwhile, ice production increased to 80 tons a day with a 1975 expansion.

at 151 Main Street was one of the victims in what was described as a war zone, looking like London after the blitzkrieg. Along with many businesses, Edith and Fred set up temporary shop in what was called Emergency Avenue, between Main and Spruce Streets, where businesses continued in makeshift structures lining wooden sidewalks. Peavey Electrical Shop did a lot of work in the downtown rebuilding. The business was renamed Fortier Electric Company by the time the 1935 city directory was published. In 1936, the couple relocated to Central Street, and soon thereafter to 114 State Street, where it would call home for many years. Over the years, the company did all types of electrical work, but also did service installations for major oil companies including underground tanks, piping, canopies, signs, painting, and concrete work. More of the family got involved with the business. The Fortiers’ nephew, G. Joseph “Joe” Fortier, joined the company as an electrician in training in 1951. And in the mid-to-late 1960s, Joe’s father — Fred’s brother George, who had risked his life to save Peavey in 1930 — retired from a 40-year career as a Ford mechanic with MorangRobinson/Ellsworth Ford Sales, and he joined Fortier Electric as a mechanic in the pump-andtank department. Fred passed away in February 1969, and Joe became his Aunt

Edith’s working foreman. In late 1969, just a few days after his eighteenth birthday, Joe’s son Ron came aboard as the utility worker. He ran a jackhammer, poured cement, shoveled, raked, swept, cleaned, and did anything else that needed to be done. But by his twentieth birthday, he passed his journeyman electrician’s exam (followed by his master’s exam the following year) and was a certified electrician. Ron Fortier recalls working many projects, including the old woolen mill where the Mill Mall stands today, the old Union River Lumber Mill where Greenway Equipment is now, expansions and constructions of various

Farnham became vice president in 1977 and then president in 1979 when Ralph retired. Louise became the vice president. In 1981, the company briefly revisited dealing in coal, but it also found a new market by taking on Stewart Sandwiches. The 1980s saw the addition of icecream products by companies such as Sealtest and Ben & Jerry’s,

as well as branding their quality ice in 1983 as Leisure Time Ice, even as production increased to 100 tons of ice per day. The company sold the windows division in 1986 to Color Concepts in order to refocus on ice. In 1988, a major expansion increased production to 140 tons per day. At that time, about 80 people worked around the clock

This photo, featured in a Fortier Electric advertisement in Ellsworth’s 1963 bicentennial publication, features G. Joseph “Joe” Fortier, father of current owner Ron Fortier. The Ford van was Joe’s work truck, and the James “Pete” Carney usually drove the pickup truck.

blueberry-processing plants, the Hancock County Creamery and Ice Cream Plant, and Thorsen’s Machine Shop at Washington Junction. He was involved in most of the commercial buildings in the Main Street area, as well as countless homes and businesses in Hancock and Washington Counties. Times were different in the early 1970s; an electrician needed very few tools: “a good, reliable (not fancy) voltage tester, a good pair of lineman’s pliers, a couple of screwdrivers, a pocketknife, and the all-important flashlight,” Ron said in a write-up to the Bangor Daily News. “If one added a roll of electrical tape and

a pocket full of fuses, most anything could be fixed.” After working at a fuse box, the only tool required to finish the job was a screwdriver, so it was common to accidentally close up another tool in the box, perhaps not to be seen for a long time. “My father ‘lost’ more pocketknives and linesman pliers that way,” Ron said. “I know this, because I am still finding them.” When Edith retired due to health problems in the late 1970s, Joe took over day-to-day operations, bringing his wife Charlotte in as office manager. Edith passed away in 1980, and a few years later the business relocated to

151 Main Street, within 50 feet of the original Peavey Electrical Shop’s location in the 1920s. With more people into doing simple electrical jobs themselves, the new location included a doit-yourselfer parts store. Ron and his younger brother Gary worked as electricians, with Ron’s youngest brother Jeffrey working for a time as a helper before becoming a journeyman electrician. Joe and Charlotte semi-retired in 1991, dropping the contracting portion of business. Ron purchased part of the business, and on Jan. 1, 1992, he became the third-generation owner. In 1996-1997, he had to scale back, working as a one-man operation and hiring his son, G. Joseph Fortier II, on an as-needed basis as a helper — and still working there occasionally today. Joe and Charlotte passed away in May and June of 1999, and a few years later Ron closed the retail store and moved the office to its present location, where he says he can easily tend to his customers’ needs. Ron’s son G. Joseph II represents the fourth generation of Fortiers at the business. But will there be a fifth? Maybe; in early 2010, a southern-Maine newspaper ran an article about electrical training at Biddeford High School. It featured a quote from his granddaughter saying she liked electricity, and had a grandfather who owned a contracting business. “Hmmm,” Ron mused, “could this be the next Edith?”

A Getchell Bros. ad from a City Directory, circa late 1930s.

The company opened a second during peak summertime ice demand, and about 35 people in facility, in Sanford, in 1998 as a storage facility; it began manuthe winter. facturing ice in 2000. The biggest Still Ice Cold and Proud challenge the company faces is Today, Farnham’s son Douglas the mistaken belief that making is president of the company, rep- ice cubes in your freezer is the resenting the fourth generation same as buying packaged ice. It in the family business. The com- isn’t; the ice-making process pany’s Leisure Time brand is involves multiple levels of filtragone, in favor of a partnership tion, cleaning, and steps to with Canadian company Arctic ensure the ice is contaminant Glacier to use its broadly recog- free. Humans hands don’t touch nized name. But Getchell Bros. is the ice, and food odors from your still family-owned, and Doug’s freezer don’t get absorbed into it. PHOTO BY PROF. MARION J. BRADSHAW, FROM HIS BOOK “THE MAINE SCENE.” brother, Don, works there. It’s about as pure, fresh, and The Getchell Bros. icehouses on the Kenduskeag, circa 1946 or 1947. At that time, the com- Doug’s oldest son, Scott, has tasteless as ice can get — and it pany would only be harvesting ice for another seven or eight years before going to only manu- spent the last two summers actually melts slower than the ice factured ice. working in the freezer. you’d make in your freezer.

Summer is the busy time, and Getchell Bros. hires about 50 seasonal employees and moves to three manufacturing shifts and longer delivery days. On an average July day, the company will manufacture and ship as much ice as it does in all of January. Even with all the automation, the company still brings on 50 new employees during the summer. “As fourth-generation owner, I am proud of the tradition and history of Getchell Bros. and the ice industry,” said Doug. “We will continue to look for new opportunities but hard work and service to our customers will be key to the future.”

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Hammond Lumber: 58 years in business, nine stores... and counting By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS

Hammond Lumber is one of the most successful buildingsupply businesses in Maine, but the company might never have happened if not for its founder’s perseverance. Clifton “Skip” Hammond was running a logging business in 1953 when a man named Eddie Kinney approached him with a proposal to start a sawmill. Kinney had sawmill experience, and with Skip’s logging skills, it seemed a good idea, so the partners built a diesel-powered sawmill in Belgrade. The venture quickly failed, and its assets went to auction, but Skip wasn’t giving up. With money borrowed from his wife, Verna, he bought the sawmill equipment and hired two employees. The men worked long days, went home for supper, and returned to work some more. Eighty-hour weeks were the norm, and money was tight. In 1953 and early 1954, the country was in a recession, so Skip did whatever he could to make ends meet. He was lucky if he ever had $20 in the bank. But Skip was the embodiment of Yankee ingenuity. He saved money however he could, such as building a forklift out of an old Army truck or hauling discarded railroad equipment back to the sawmill to convert into something usable. Eventually, two

more recessions later, the company became profitable. In 1967, Skip’s son Donald, fresh out of high school, helped launch the retail store; where the company had been a wholesaler before, the retail store brought its lumber to the masses. Donald had a broad understanding of how the various parts of the company worked, as he’d worked the sawmill and planer mill, driven trucks and forklifts, ordered supplies, and waited on customers.

Accelerated Growth The store only sold lumber at first, but soon began adding building supplies. As the selection grew, so did the company. There had been no plans for other locations, but in 1975 the owner of the Harry E. Falls sawmill and retail store in Skowhegan decided to sell. With Hammond Lumber’s business picking up steam, the company purchased Falls and opened its second location. A revamped Belgrade store in late 1976 expanded its display area to 5,000 square feet. A 4,000-square-foot Home Center joined it in early 1977, which the company said was one of the most complete home centers in Maine. In 1983, another opportunity presented itself when Starbird Lumber in Farmington burned. The owner wasn’t interested in rebuilding, so Hammond Lumber purchased its assets and


Hammond’s flagship store in Belgrade. The front of this building expanded on the old store to the rear. The complex features a sawmill, planer mill, and product warehouses. The original retail-store building from 1967 is still in use today. From this has sprouted a chain of Maine-based building-supply stores that ranks 13th in the Northeast in sales. Hammond competes against national chains by belonging to a co-op of similar independent businesses, enjoying $8 billion in buying power.

opened another store. In 1987, with log homes exploding in popularity, Hammond Lumber opened its Maine Pine Log Homes division. The company was already milling logs in Belgrade, as well as designing kitchens and decks, so customdesigned log homes were a natural fit. Expansion surged after that. In 1989, the company acquired Peter Allen Lumber in the Lewiston-Auburn area, as well as the assets of the former Augusta Lumber Company. In 1991, after

traveling to Greenville to attend the Moose Hill Lumber and Hardware auction, they wound up buying the entire company. A sixth store followed in 1997 when Hammond Lumber bought the former Fairfield Lumber Company. Number seven came in 2002 in Bangor, when Hammond Lumber bought the former Wickes location there. Hammond Lumber broke its “when opportunity knocks” mold in 2008, entering the Portland market with the construction of a new store. And in 2010, Hammond Lumber purchased Downeast Building Supply in Brunswick from Downeast Energy, which had run the buildingsupply division for 80 years. The former Downeast Building Supply became Hammond’s ninth location. And at the end of November 2010, Hammond Lumber Company purchased the assets of the former Pineland Lumber Company of Lewiston.

Today and the Future

Inside the Belgrade store, featuring the sprawling customer-service counters, administrative people, and a small part of the retail store. The store also features its log-home division office, a complete kitchen and bath department, windows, doors, and much more.

Bangor Y Continued from Page 4 to remodel and expand the Second Street facility and sell the Hammond Street building. The first renovation phase was completed in December 2010, including a new parking lot and interior renovations. Phase two includes construction of a new gym with a full-sized basketball court, new fitness facilities, new locker rooms, a new welcome center, and space for youth and teen programming. At a December 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the phase-one completion, CEO Mike Seile recognized both organizations that provide the Bangor Y’s foundation as it looks forward to many more years of community service. “Today represents more than the completion of a construction project or the consolidation into a single site,” he said. “Today we celebrate the deep histories of the Bangor-Brewer YWCA and the

Hammond Lumber is a building-supply powerhouse in Maine and beyond. In 2010, it ranked #43 nationally by Pro Sales Magazine’s list of the 100 top-sales building-supply companies in the country. With only 12 in the

BDN FILE PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS Bangor YMCA, and the vision of Karl Ward, CEO of Nickerson & O’Day, placed our community leaders and staff in ensuring that future genera- hard hats on toddlers in the Bangor Y's Discovery Friends Day Care. Behind him (from left) tions will benefit from our miswere day-care intern Chelsea Dow, toddler sion. Through the joint operateacher Kristen York, George McHale tion, formal merger, and now our single location, we are pleased to (obscured), Bangor Y board president Racquel Tibbetts, and Bangor Y CEO Mike Seile. They reintroduce ourselves to the community as the Y, for youth joined other members of the Bangor Y commudevelopment, healthy living and nity to break ground for the new parking lot at the Bangor Y's Second Street location Thurssocial responsibility.” day morning, September 23, 2010. A lot has happened so far during the intensive renovation and expansion project, the result of a merger between the Bangor YMCA and BangorBrewer YWCA. The new entity has consolidated into the YWCA’s old location, and is working to build a better facility for the community as it heads into the future.

Mike Seile, Bangor Y CEO

entire Northeast ahead of it, it’s now one of the largest in the region, even as it remains an independent, third-generation, family-owned company. Today, the Belgrade sawmill gets its pine supply from within a 60-mile radius, sawing more than 6.5 million board feet of lumber every year — one of the few building suppliers milling its own lumber. There’s no waste; sawdust, processed bark, wood shavings, and wood chips are sold across New England. Although Skip retired in 1996, he comes in regularly to keep an eye on things, and his wife Verna is in the office every morning. Donald heads the company, with his son, Michael, as vice president. So what’s on tap in the near future for Hammond Lumber? Rod Wiles, the director of marketing and personnel, a 25-year veteran with the company, isn’t talking about what irons might be in the fire, but reiterated the Hammonds’ ability to capitalize on opportunities. “The Hammonds … have shown that they’ve always got their ear to the ground, they know what’s going on in their own business and in the industry,” Wiles said. “They

are also keenly aware of their competition.” Hammond Lumber belongs to the Lumbermens Merchandising Corporation, a co-op of 360 independent companies that wields an annual $8 billion in buying power, easily allowing Hammond Lumber to be on par with the national chains. Wiles stresses that, at Hammond Lumber, you won’t get unskilled employees who avoid you like in some stores. And it’s the employees who have made the company’s success possible. “[The Hammonds] could not have built a company the size that it is today by themselves,” said Wiles. “It is the employees who have worked for them over the years, or continue to work for us today, who make us successful.” Hammond Lumber employs 350 people, nearly all full-time, at its nine locations. The company offers ample overtime during the busy season, instead of hiring and laying off seasonal workers. This ensures a steady crew that is knowledgeable and dedicated. “We want to ensure that we have quality people representing us,” Wiles said. “They are the ones who help to make us successful and help keep us successful.”

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Maine’s Progressive Business

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Hampden Hardware: 158 years selling hardware at the same location By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS

Nobody knows the date for sure, but where Hampden Hardware currently stands has been the site of a hardware store since about 1853. An 1856 municipal survey in a book published by the Hampden Historical Society indicated that only one store sold “paints and oils.” The first record of Burnham W. Hardy operating the store was in the 1890 Maine Register. But in 1889, Hardy was not listed, although B. F. Smith was listed as selling paints and oils. Smith was a prolific businessman who ran a general store with various partners, being listed as a merchant as far back as 1871, before the registers mentioned specific businesses; he is first listed as selling paints and oils in 1882. There are no Maine Registers at the Bangor Public Library between 1857 and 1870 inclusive,

but 1856 and 1857 registers do list Allen Rogers as selling “paints, oils, and glass” in that area. It seems likely that a hardware store of some kind has existed on or very near the location of the current Hampden Hardware since 1853. At some time in the early 1900s, a man named E.W. Rowell worked for Hardy at his store, and eventually bought the business. The current owners have receipts from 1904 under Hardy and 1909 under Rowell, and the 1908-1909 Maine Register lists Rowell as owning the store, with Hardy last listed there in 19061907, so the sale likely happened sometime between 1906 and 1908. Disaster struck in May 1912 when a devastating fire destroyed one of the major centers of Hampden. It wiped out three two-story buildings, town landmarks that had formed the trading center for miles around. The fire did a staggering $25,000

damage (nearly $550,000 in today’s dollars). Rowell suffered the most damage, at $10,000. It’s believed the building was built in 1854. But a town needed its hardware store, and Rowell quickly began rebuilding, with a new store to open by August of that year. In the meantime, he set up shop on the corner of West Elm and Main, in the building historians know as Crosby’s Grist Mill Store or the Old Brick Store, a building constructed in 1807. There, Rowell displayed his merchandise on tables or whatever else he could find. (Later, in the 1920s, Rowell paid $1,500 for his house — located across the street from the Grist Mill Store building, and also built in 1807.) Rowell had owned the business for about 50 years when he sold it to Gordon Ackley and Herbert Tenney in 1956. Tenney purchased the building in 1961 and ran it for the next 20 years. In 1981, Dale Palmer, a Belfast

businessman, purchased the store out of bankruptcy. Palmer had owned and operated the Home Supply Center on Main Street in downtown Belfast since 1968, so he already had solid experience running a hardware

Top: B.W. Hardy’s hardware store, with its sign noting “Hardware – Tin-Ware – Paints – Oils,” is at the left of this photo, which the Hampden Historical Society dates between 1870 and 1890. However, the presence of Ella Rowe’s store seems to date it to no earlier than about 1899, as she was known as Ella Temple prior to that. (Photo courtesy of the Hampden Historical Society.) Above: A Hampden police officer makes a quick purchase from Steve Bergey. (BDN photo by David M. Fitzpatrick.)

Bacon Continued from Page 5 paper printing.” Carlton Strout, who had married John’s daughter, Judy, in 1979, had begun working at the company in 1982. Carlton assumed leadership of Bacon Printing upon John’s untimely death in 2001, and continues to run it today. Even while working another job, Judy has gotten more involved in recent years to help the longtime family business thrive.

Bacon Printing Today Today, a dozen highly skilled people work for Bacon Printing, and there’s plenty of longevity; one employee just passed the 51year mark. Much has changed over the years; with easier access to desktop computers and printers, customers’ reliance on commercial printing companies has waned, but Bacon Printing continues to succeed in the modern marketplace. There’s tough competition from big-box stores and online venues, because people assume they’re cheaper, but Judy Bacon Strout encourages people to call

for free quotes. She says people An image from are apt to be very surprised at a Bacon PrintBacon’s competitive prices and ing advertisement in the wide range of services, and said Bangor City the company will print pretty Directory. much anything. “People will call every now Bacon Printing and then and say, ‘Do you do Co. first used this image in wedding invitations?’” she said. “We’ll do anything you want us advertising in 1892, depictto do. And we’ll do one, or we’ll ing its Babdo 50 million.” cock Printing And Bacon does it all beyond Press, which printing: folding, cutting, scoring, spiral binding, laminating, was a state-ofthe-art press and subcontracting for other printers. Bacon specializes in at the time. It was a powerthings such as envelopes; Strout estimates Bacon can print driven cylinder envelopes faster than anyone press with an else in Maine, at least north of automatic inking system. Portland. But the real specialization comes in the one-on-one, personal service to all customers, whether it’s a big print job or someone needing a few cards printed. The staff works closely with customers to make sure the jobs are done right — even if it means doing jobs over. “You try to make customer service be the most important thing: giving somebody just exactly what they want,” said Strout.

store. Palmer wanted to expand his business, and he knew Hampden Hardware enjoyed a key location at the junctions of Routes 9 and Route 1A and near Route 202. Palmer asked his daughter and son-in-law, Diane and Steve Bergey, to run it for him. The Bergeys moved into the apartment upstairs over the store and did just that. Externally, the store hasn’t changed much since the building went up in 1913, although the original flat roof was covered with a sloping roof at some point. Inside, it has that relaxed feeling of a hometown hardware store, with tin ceilings and a roaring fireplace in the back. The half-dozen employees are experienced in many areas. That expertise is valued highly, and sets this local store apart from the big-box chains that might not have the well-rounded levels of expertise in so many areas. “I pay more than most places do for all my people, and we offer benefits, and we try to keep them,” Bergey said. “It takes a while to train people. Even somebody who’s knowledgeable in plumbing and all these various things, it takes a while to learn where things are, what we have.” And they have just about everything you could imagine

when it comes to hardware, plus plenty more. And if the store doesn’t have it, chances are the Belfast store does, and Bergey can get it to Hampden pretty quickly. Having that other store, and the warehouse in Belfast, enables Hampden Hardware to carry things most small stores wouldn’t be able to carry. Bergey has a 10-ton truck that he’ll load up with lifts of lumber, plywood, and drywall, or pallets of insulation or potting soil to bring to Hampden. After 9/11, Dead River, down the street, couldn’t allow people in where all the propane was anymore, and asked Hampden Hardware to be a refilling station. The propane business is extreme, especially on weekends. Likewise, when the local Blue Seal dealer went out, the store picked up that line. And wood pellets have become a major draw to passersby. “Fifteen thousand cars a day go by here, so we stick that one right out by the street and get a competitive price on it,” Bergey said. “I don’t even know how many truckloads of pellets we’ve sold this year.” For 158 years, that location at a key crossroads has been a centerpoint of business in Hampden, and there’s no sign that it won’t be for a long time to come.

Maine's Progressive Business 2011  

A history of service with an eye on the future! Maine has a rich business history, and within these pages you'll find great examples. And we...