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Matthew Qualey of Qualey Granite & Quartz, Small Business Person of the Year BY DEBRA BELL BANGOR DAILY NEWS

From potatoes to stone, Benedicta native Matthew Qualey, owner of Qualey Granite & Quartz at 1506 State St. in Veazie, has always been a hard worker. And that hard work has paid off with a successful granite and quartz fabrication business as well as with the honor of being named Maine’s Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. “It took a couple of days to sink in,” Qualey said. “It’s a big deal and lends another level of credibility to the business. I’m certainly [very] proud to have received it but it wouldn’t have happened without a lot of help and support.” That help and support came from Bangor Savings Bank which helped him gain funding through a SBA-guaranteed loan, the hard work of a talented staff, a supportive family, and a tenacity to provide excellent customer service while producing high quality products. “I nominated Matt because he has shown substantial growth over the last seven years due to his and [his wife] Laurie’s hard work, integrity and commitment to the highest level of customer service,” said Vicki L. Bessette, president of business services at Bangor Savings Bank. “The result of these efforts is a reputation in the marketplace that fuels their growth.” Qualey got his start in the granite business a decade ago partly by accident. He was studying to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Maine in clinical neuropsychology. “While I was preparing for graduate school, I started working for a stonemason,” he said. “I found that I really liked it and I

pulled out of graduate school.” The decision to leave graduate school was one of the hardest decisions he’s ever made, he said. With a loan from his mother- and father-in-law, he bought a lawn mower and a truck and started doing lawn work while he prepared to buy a monument shop on State Street in Bangor. When the stone worker that had been working with Qualey abruptly left, he had more orders than he could handle. Declaring bankruptcy was never an option, and he knew he had to step up to fulfill client orders. He enrolled himself and his brother in training, sold the landscaping equipment, and dove in, Qualey said. “A lot of our customers at the time were physicians doing renovations, buying houses, and buying camps,” Qualey said. “The business just grew. We stayed [on State Street] until 2006 or 2007. The shop got small fast.” So when it came to expanding, Qualey knew he’d need funding to take the next step. That’s where Bessette and Bangor Savings Bank came into the picture. “We didn’t have any money and they were the only ones willing to work with us,” Qualey said. He refinanced an existing loan and did a SBA guaranteed loan to purchase high-tech equipment and lease a facility in Brewer to serve as his warehouse and manufacturing center. In 2010, the warehouse and home design center were merged into its current location in Veazie, formerly home to Gagne Precast. Today, Qualey Granite & Quartz employs 18 people including Matt and his wife Laurie. The company will be hiring more employees later this year when a Portland office opens. And the company is now wholesale only. An important part of the Qualey brand is


Matt Qualey and his wife Laurie pose with their dogs Teddy (from left), Penelope, Gaius, and Baron. This special section was produced and published by BDN Maine - Editor/Layout: David M. Fitzpatrick Writers: Debra Bell, David M. Fitzpatrick Photos: Debra Bell, David M. Fitzpatrick; some photos submitted by others Advertising Sales: Linda Hayes, Sam Hoad Cover Design: Carolina Rave Special Thanks: Marilyn Geroux and the Maine Small Business Administration If you’d like to advertise in next year’s Salute to Maine’s Small Businesses, or if you’d like to reach a wide audience with your organization’s message in your own customized special section. contact Jeff Orcutt at or (207) 990-8036.

its focus on giving back to the community — namely in the form of supporting animal rescue. Walk into the showroom and you’ll be greeted by beautiful granite and stone samples on the left and the Rescue Pets Rock! brand on the right. The Qualeys own three rescued Chihuahuas — the newest arrival, 11-year-old Teddy; 9-year-old Penelope; and 3-year-old Gaius — and a 3-year-old retired greyhound named Baron. In fact, Baron goes

to the office with Matt each day and happily greets visitors. The couple’s first chihuahua, Piper, is also part of the Rescue Pets brand which was initially started by Laurie to honor his memory. And then there’s Hannibal the warehouse cat “manager,” a feral cat rescued by the Bangor Humane Society. They give back, through Rescue Pets Rock!, and by supporting pet adoption. “We don’t have children, but wanted to

See QUALEY, page 9







Cory LaPlante of Northern Prosthetics & Orthotics, Young Entrepreneur of the Year BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK BANGOR DAILY NEWS

Cory LaPlante always wanted to work for his father in his Aroostook County construction business, but at 15, his life’s focus abruptly changed when he lost most of his left leg to an osteosarcoma. His doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital referred him to a prosthetist in New Hampshire, which meant the Aroostook County boy made long trips for his appointments. When his prosthetic was damaged two days before his senior prom, he made a fast trip to his prosthetist. While driving home, it struck him as ridiculous that his selfemployed parents paid expensive insurance premiums — but he had a 500-mile round trip for his care. “We pay the same rates in northern Maine as people do in southern Maine, so why is it we have to drive so far to get treatment?” he recalled. LaPlante resolved to become a prosthetist and open a practice in The County. After un-

dergraduate work in the UMaine System and postgraduate work at the University of Connecticut, he did a one-year residency at Maine Artificial Limb in Portland. Directly after, he opened Northern Prosthetics in Presque Isle in 2007. For the first two years, he worked in a cramped space, had few clients, and drew zero salary. He was a one-man operation: practitioner, marketing, billing, and janitor. He turned a tiny profit in the third year, still with no salary, but he felt success looming. “Nobody could stop me now,” he said. Meanwhile, he was getting orthotics referrals, but he wasn’t certified in orthotics. He soon hired Bryan Rammell, who had attended grad school with him; Rammell relocated his family from Mississippi to Presque Isle, and LaPlante soon hired an office manager. But with payroll looming and $5,000 in payables due, LaPlante had just $836 in his bank account. With many outstanding receivables but no cash on hand, he was about to fold. He couldn’t let down his new hires or his original investors. “I couldn’t fail,” he said. “I’d worked too

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Cory LaPlante at work in his fabrication shop, where he makes his clients’ custom prosthetics.

hard, come too far, and faced too many challenges.” He went to Katahdin Trust, which first extended him a line of credit and later loaned him expansion money. In April 2011, LaPlante broke ground on his new building on Presque Isle’s Academy Street, the center of the medical community. His father handled the excavation. His uncle did the plumbing. A friend ran the wiring. And LaPlante was there after work and on weekends, helping however he could. “It was a really small-town kind of feel,” he said. “It was all people that I knew and people that I trusted.” Later, he added Wade Bonneson, an orthotist and prosthetist with 30 years of experience, Joanna Newlands, a specialist in mastectomy prosthetics. He’s added administrative staff and even hired a former cobbler who has become a natural at fabrication. And he’s planning full-time satellite offices in

“I couldn’t fail. I’d worked too hard, come too far, and faced too many challenges.” CORY LAPLANTE Houlton and Fort Kent. Northern Prosthetics & Orthotics provides a vast variety of prosthetics and orthotics. Practitioners work closely with patients to create custom prosthetics on site, from making molds of partial limbs to designing the finished products. His fabrication shop is a fascinating combination of disciplines: part doctor’s lab, part mechanic’s garage, part artist’s studio. He merges those things into a deep caring for what he does. “To see somebody come in with limb deficiency [and] literally walk out of [my] office with a prosthesis is extremely rewarding,” he

See LAPLANTE, page 9

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Dennis Lajoie of Community Concepts Finance Corporation, Financial Services Champion BANGOR DAILY NEWS

The SBA has named Dennis Lajoie, CEO of Community Concepts Finance Corporation, its Financial Services Champion. “I feel proud,” Lajoie said of the award. “I had 20 years experience in affordable housing, and basically I had to reinvent myself with learning business lending, which is obviously a lot different... I feel so proud that I could keep my mind open enough to try something different — and having the opportunity within the same organization.” Lajoie handled housing lending through Community Concepts, a social-service program in Lewiston, as Director of Housing Development for many years, with a bit of small-business lending. But when a local business lender closed its doors about 10 years ago, Community Concepts formed the independent Community Concepts Finance Corporation, which focused on identifying funding sources and securing its own funding money. CCFC took over that program’s outstanding loans and available loan cash. “Then we really became both a housing lender and a business lender at about an equal footing, and then grew the business loans with more products,” Lajoie said. From managing a handful of loans six or seven years ago, CCFC has grown steadily, and now manages between 50 and 60 active loans. CCFC generally does seed money, helping people launch successful businesses that can attain future bank financing on their own merits. “One of our goals is to get people to a point where they don’t need us,” Lajoie said. Most of CCFC’s clients are seeking to start or

expand small businesses. For those that aren’t ready — perhaps they haven’t done a proper business plan — Lajoie refers them to such places as the Oxford Hills SCORE. For those that are ready, if the plan makes sense and the numbers work, CCFC can usually help. “Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, we can find [a way] to fund it,” he said. “The key is always: How are you going to pay us back?” That’s where a solid business plan becomes very important, he says.

“People, if they have a dream, they want to move on it. Our goal is to make their dream a reality.” DENNIS LAJOIE Loans can be anything from a few hundred dollars for a startup lawn-care company that needs a mower to partnering as a subordinate lender with major lenders for multimilliondollar projects. “We have that flexibility in there, and we have enough contacts where we can do that as well,” Lajoie said. Most of Lajoie’s work is finding available funding, but thanks to the SBA, CCFC has money of its own to lend. Basically, the SBA loaned CCFC a bulk of money with payback terms; Lajoie then re-lends that money, and repays SBA through client repayments. CCFC’s loan committee relies on Lajoie’s reports and recommendations about whether to lend money, and they usually follow his lead. Lajoie is working to “fast track” the process for those who have their ducks in a row. “People, if they have a dream, they want to

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move on it,” Lajoie said. “Our goal is to make their dream a reality but be realistic about ‘Can it work?’” Lajoie, who oversees a staff of six, had adapted his years of housing lending to this job. In many ways, it’s a similar field, even if the rules and regulations with variuos lenders are different. “I think that’s the strength I bring to the lending arm from my background in working for the agency in other fields,” Lajoie said. Steve Veazey of the Oxford Hills SCORE nominated Lajoie for the award. “Dennis Lajoie has been a tireless advocate for business lending, for ensuring that borrowers are provided technical assistance, and for fulfilling an economic and social service need, when making loans in Western Maine,” Veazey said in an email to the Bangor Daily News. “His long career at Community Concepts Finance Corporation demonstrates his commitment to helping businesses and economically disadvantaged individuals succeed.” To back that commitment, Lajoie says CCFC has money to lend to businesses in

Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties, and the award will help raise awareness. “Partly what we’re always looking at is, how do we market ourselves? How do people know who we are out there?” he said. “I think this award helps us raise our level of credibility... and that we do have resources to lend.” Learn more at

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Kurt & Kathy Cressey and Pack Baskets of Maine, Micro-Enterprise of the Year BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK BANGOR DAILY NEWS

For Kurt and Kathy Cressey, the careful development of their business has necessitated thinking outside the box — or, as they’d say, thinking outside the basket. Their efforts have resulted in earning them the SBA’s Micro-Enterprise of the Year Award. “We’re thrilled to death,” Kurt said. “It’s an honor.” The Cresseys both worked at DeLorme Mapping Company for 10 years, but when their daughter came along in 1995, they decided they wanted a business where she could get off the bus every day and find her parents waiting for her. They decided to run a little general store, and found one in the Pine Tree Store in Grand Lake Stream, a seasonal crossroads for hunters, fishermen, campers, and snowmobilers. The store closed every October after fishing season and reopened in January for the snowmobilers, so they soon decided they needed something to supplement their income and keep them busy. About that time, someone offered to sell a small business to them — making pack baskets. The idea just seemed right, so they bought the business, but they had no idea what they were doing. “[The business] didn’t come with a lot of instructions,” Kathy said. “And we didn’t know. I mean, how hard is it to weave a basket? Well, it is hard.” “We slowly ran [the business] down in the process of learning how to make baskets, and then slowly but gradually built it up,” Kurt said. Pack baskets have long been used as carryalls, from the Native Americans to modern-

day fishermen. The Cresseys hand-make their baskets from strips of maple veneer that are first soaked in water and then tightly woven. After drying, the slats are tamped down even tighter, top strips are riveted on, and web straps are added. During the store’s seasonal shutdown, the Cresseys transformed it into a basket factory: soaking wood in the basement, assembling baskets in the store, and drying them in the converted walk-in cooler. But in three months, they had to quickly convert the store again to handle the snowmobiling crowd. “It was creative, but inefficient,” said Kathy. “It was exhausting,” added Kurt. They couldn’t make baskets fast enough. With their daughter about the enter high school, the Cresseys knew it was time to go to the next level. She wanted to attend John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, so they bought a house in nearby Orrington. Then they found ample rental space at the Dysart’s station on Route 15 in Orrington, less than three miles from home. A loan from Bangor Savings Bank enabled them to renovate the space, construct a drying room, and purchase $25,000 in wood — a huge order that saved them lots of money and provided them with a major supply. Until recently, almost all of their business has been wholesale, with Maine-based retailers such as Indian Hill Trading Post, Willey’s, and L.L. Bean. Now they’re looking for online retail sales; they’ve established a Web site and have hired a marketing agency to help them grow. “We’ve got pretty good coverage in the state, especially from Waterville up,” said Kathy. “We want to work southern Maine, eventually, and we want to get into other states and other parts of the country.”


Kurt an Kathy Cressey pose with their line of pack baskets in their Orrington production facility.

With their days entirely dedicated to making baskets, they’re on a roll. They’re building an inventory — something they’d never been able to do — and are learning new ways to do business. “Things are kind of falling in place now,” Kathy said. “It’s really exciting. We’ve always known we have a nice product. It’s just now having the time and the resources and some recognition that it’s all kind of now pointing in the same direction.” They’re excited about the SBA award, but

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Kurt says they aren’t seeking recognition; they’re just trying to make a living doing something they enjoy. “If you can wake up in the morning and you’re kind of revved up to get to work and you’re anxious either about a new idea or to finish off an order or make a delivery — the juice is there,” he said. “When you wake up in the morning and you go, ‘I really don’t want to go’ — find something else to do. Life’s too short.” Learn more at

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Terry Ingram and Allagash International, Small Business Exporter of the Year BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK BANGOR DAILY NEWS

A valve distributor and manufacturer has been making waves in the international community, and its success has earned it the SBA’s Small Business Exporter of the Year in Maine. “I’m proud, and think it’s not my award — it’s my employees’ award,” said Terry Ingram, president and CEO of Allagash International in South Portland. “They’re the backbone of the company.” The company’s story began when Ingram spent over four years in Navy nuclear subs as a machinist’s mate. He understood valves, and after leaving the military he went into that business, and moved to Maine 23 years ago as VP of sales for a valve distributor. After working at various valve companies in different capacities, in 2002 he started his own distributorship: Allagash Valve and Controls in Falmouth and Millinocket. It was just him and his spouse, working in 600 square feet. He expanded until he had a few employees, but when the mill in Millinocket fired back up, he lost those workers, so he relocated to Yarmouth. The metamorphosis began 9 years ago, when Ingram bid on a pair of 60-inchdiameter valves in Colombia. He landed the $500,000 job, and it opened his eyes to business in Latin America and abroad. He landed deals in Peru, Chile, and Venezuela over the next few years, and focused on expanding into manufacturing. In early 2010, he acquired DeZurik’s Globe Control Valve Division and created Nor’East Controls, a division of Allagash International. “From that global presence of having agents around the world, [customers] saw the

value in the workmanship that came out of Allagash International,” said Ingram. “Now they come to us for larger projects.” The company partners closely with its customers, treating them as a distributor would, not as a manufacturer would. The result has been incredible growth — from about $1.2 million in revenue three years ago to about $4.5 million already in 2013. There are 24 people working in South Portland with about 10 others worldwide. Ingram’s company is right where he planned, but years sooner than he’d expected, thanks in part to SBA loan guaranty financing. Its employee roster should double in the next few years, and Ingram expects to be a $20 million company by 2015. The company might be the only controlvalve manufacturer that makes 100 percent of its product in the U.S., from raw castings through machining, assembling, testing, and shipping. It’s something Ingram takes seriously: After buying DeZurik and moving everything from Minnesota and Texas to Maine, the first thing he did was cancel all overseas orders and reorder in the United States. “At the end of the day, the U.S.’s products are still gold in the world,” said Ingram. “People want to buy U.S.-manufactured products.” And he’s happy to do it in Maine. “Maine is second to none for work ethic,” said Ingram. “Nothing goes out of our plant without pride and attention to detail, whereas other companies in other areas of the U.S. may not have that sense of urgency or that criticality. Our people do.” Gene Wendland, executive vice president and CFO, who nominated the company for


Terry Ingram. president and CEO of Allagash International, in his office in South Portland. Ingram built the business up from a two-person valve distributorship to become a valve distributor and manufacturer with a wide variety of customers around the world.

the award, agrees. “I think that there’s a story to be told that industrial manufacturing in Maine is still alive and that we can still manufacture and export here,” said Wendland. The company’s success has also added local economic support. This year, it will bring about $3 million in support to local vendors

and manufacturers for everything from parts supply to machine-shop work. And Allagash International has caught the eyes of competitors, who keep trying to buy it. The company is absolutely not for sale, Ingram says, but he can understand everyone’s interest. “We’re doing what other companies have See ALLAGASH, page 12



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Derosier Family and Lakeview Restaurant, Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business Award for Maine and New England BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK BANGOR DAILY NEWS

The Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha is celebrating its 30th anniversary as its founding family has won the Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business Award for both Maine and New England. “It’s an honor,” said Jenn Derosier Daigle, daughter of founders Dick and Carol Derosier. “It’s a bittersweet thing right now, just losing my mom. I wish she could have been here with us.” Dick and Carol Derosier started the restaurant July 1, 1983, serving burgers and hot dogs. Dick, who had done some cooking in the military, was a farmer, and Carol was a hairdresser. They kept doing their other jobs for a while, but the restaurant soon demanded their full attention. Over the years it expanded, eventually taking over the two-car garage; the menu grew along with the space. In 1995, the Derosiers added adjacent campsites. Meanwhile, events such as the annual motorcycle party drew

visitors from all over. At age 2 when the restaurant opened, Jenn grew up in the business: pouring water as a little girl, doing dishes, cooking, making salads and desserts, and bussing tables, and later waitressing and bartending. She left to go to school for hospitality management, and soon knew she wanted to eventually take over the family business. She returned to St. Agatha and worked with her parents for more than 8 years before her father got sick: He had cancer, and had to go to Boston for treatments. With a 2-yearold and a newborn, and her husband Jason off to work 14 hours a day, she was mostly on her own as her dad’s illness worsened. But Jenn persevered. “I learned from the best,” she said. “You can go to school and learn all you want, but being with them in the business, day to day, is the best training that you can get.” Her father passed away in February 2012, but her mother was ill, too, also stricken with cancer. Jenn and Jason bought the business in May 2012, and this year received word of the

family winning the SBA award. It came just in time. “I was able to tell my mom,” Jenn said. “It was a few days before she passed.” On July 28, the Daigles will hold a 30thanniversary celebration — probably with a pig roast (which Dick and Carol used to do frequently), entertainment for adults, and activities for kids. The Daigles are also working on a fundraiser for next year to benefit the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund and Angel Flight. “There are so many people up here in the area affected by cancer who need help,” Jenn said. The restaurant’s staff ranges from 40 to 50, with a few who have been there since the beginning or close to it. Many workers start in high school and work through college on summer breaks. The staff is more than just a roster of employees; they’re part of the family. “We have a super crew here,” said Jenn. “And everybody pulls together and… does what they need to do to help out and fill in.” Last year, Jason quit his job as a welder and pipefitter to go full time at the restaurant. And as the kids get older, Jenn says they’ll learn about the honor of growing up in a family business, and the joy of serving loyal

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Top: The Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha. The restaurant is on a hill overlooking Long Lake, a 6,000-acre, 12-mile-long lake. Above: Jason and Jenn Daigle with their children Kelsie (left) and Kamden. Like Jenn when she was little, the kids already help out in the family business.

customers from near and far. “It’s not the numbers that come through the door; it’s the people that you get to meet and to know from all over the United States

See DEROSIERS, next page




QUALEY from page 2

said. “I don’t think there’s any better feeling in the world.” At 34, LaPlante has been named the SBA’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. “It’s always an honor when somebody recognizes your hard work and your devotion,” he said. “I really feel like it’s a testament to my whole staff here and everybody that works here.” LaPlante says that the secret to success is to engage in something you’re passionate about and get ready to sacrifice your life to it. “You’ve got to be willing to work ridiculously hard for no gratification,” he said. “If you’re willing to do that, you’ll make it. Nobody can stop you.” You can learn more online at

do something socially- and civic-minded,” Qualey said. “There are so many dogs out there, why would you buy one?” The Qualeys are ardent supporters of local animal rescues, including the Bangor Humane Society. Several kennels at BHS are sponsored by Qualey Granite & Quartz. That work comes at the hands of Laurie, he said. “[But] we’ve taken it a step further,” he said. “Cambria Quartz is our premier product line and we’ve co-branded it with BHS. If a client purchases Cambria, they get a Rescue Pets Rock! mug and a bumper sticker and a donation is made to BHS. It’s a way for us to give back to the community and get our brand’s name out there to tie the two together.” That co-branding helps to enhance the company’s image, he said. They are one of nine fabricators for Cambria in New England. Silestone is another major product that his business fabricates. But a great product line isn’t enough to PHOTO BY SHA~LAM PHOTOGRAPHY stand on, he noted. You have to offer clients Prosthetist Cory LaPlante (right), winner of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, who is an above-knee something completely different to stay comamputee, walks down the hallway of his office with one of his clients. petitive. That’s where the robots and digital imaging come in. DEROSIERS from previous page look forward to seeing their faces come back.” Qualey Granite & Quartz uses technology She knows people take the business serithat enables them to show a customer exactly and, actually, all over the world,” she said. ously. After her father passed, many people “You make friendships with them and you didn’t come for a while because they thought the restaurant had been sold outside the family. The loyalty is special to Jenn, as is the SBA award. “I wish my mom and dad could be here,” she said. “I know they’re going to be watching over us. They worked so hard their whole life, and we have big shoes to fill.” Learn more at

what their backsplash, counter, or other project will look like in the granite, marble, soapstone, or quartz of their choice. “Our templates are digital now,” he said. “Our programmers convert the design to a CAD file and the customer approves that. That’s important, especially with quartz. We still have plenty of skilled workers doing hand polishing but our waterjet and CNC machines take our production to the next level.” To see how this works, visit the Qualey Granite & Quartz Facebook page and click on videos. “There’s no doubt, without the SBA this wouldn’t have happened or terms wouldn’t have been as good,” Qualey said. Looking ahead to the future, Qualey said he’s looking forward to opening another location in Portland later this year. “We are just going to continue growing, creating new markets, and offering better service to our clients,” he said. “We found that it was not that hard to get bigger, but it’s really hard to get better. We have spent the last year laying the groundwork to put good systems in place, with a focus on training and consistency.” Learn more online at



Jenn Derosier Daigle (center) with her parents, Carol and Dick Derosier. The Derosiers founded the Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha in 1983.

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Fred Lebel and Maine Heritage Weavers, Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK BANGOR DAILY NEWS

Fred Lebel has won the Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year for his 11-year-old venture, Maine Heritage Weavers. As it turns out, just about everyone except Lebel knew the award was in the works, from the nominators to Lebel’s daughter, Linda Cloutier, the company’s president. Lebel was wondering why his daughter was asking so many ques-

tions about his military service. “He told me the other day, ‘I thought she was getting my obituary ready,’” said consultant John Turner, one of the nominators. “I’m pleased,” said Lebel. “I’m honored by it, and I’m sure there are so many other wellqualified people for this award.” But he’s quite modest about it, saying that the real award-winners are his employees. “I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “They’re the ones who stayed with us to keep


Fred Lebel (center), owner of Maine Heritage Weavers, and his daughter, company president Linda Cloutier, stand with John Turner, a co-nominator of the SBA’s Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year award, which Lebel won. The trio pose with one of the company’s signature matelasse heirloom bedspreads. Lebel started MHW in 2002 when the company he worked for, in business since the 1850s, closed. He wanted to continue the manufacturing of these rare textiles in Maine, and keep the skilled craftspeople employed.

thing in a three-story former Bates building this company going and growing.” in Lewiston. The business manufactured The company’s history goes back much and grew for years in very cramped quarters. further than its 11 years. Around 1850, Bates When Lebel had to shore up the floors and opened its first mill in Lewiston. A century slow the machines down to keep the building later, it was the largest textile manufacturer from coming apart, in Maine, employing about 6,000 people. “I was young. I was only 71.” he knew he had to relocate. But in the 1950s, the FRED LEBEL ON STARTING The solution: an mills began closing MAINE HERITAGE WEAVERS IN 2002 empty, 65,000-squareuntil just one was left; INSTEAD OF RETIRING foot factory in Monwhen Bates’ parent mouth. It was perfect, company closed that with a mezzanine suitable for accessing the in 2002, there were just 80 employees. loom heads, loading docks, and everything Lebel was stunned at the idea that these on a concrete slab. Camden National Bank multigeneration employees would be out of jobs, and the heirloom matelassé and candle- loaned half the money, the SBA provided wick bedspreads, for which the company was 40 percent in a 504 loan, and Lebel put up everything he owned to cover the rest. Now, famous, would be gone forever. Maine Heritage Weavers is on track for steady “All these people that had all this experigrowth, with plenty of inside space and 25 ence — they’re craftspeople,” Lebel said. acres of land ready if needed. “This is not something you just get off the “Now that we’re up here, we can do more,” street.” Lebel had a long history with Bates. Shortly said Lebel. Lebel has handed the reins over to Cloutiafter joining the Army in 1951, he aggravated er, who began working at Bates in 1977 with an old football knee injury. One doctor said her father and now serves as the company’s Lebel needed an operation; another advised president. against the tricky surgery, warning that he With the long-loved product remaining a could have bad side effects. He opted against hit with the company’s customers through it and was medically discharged. (The knee its 40-50 catalog houses, Maine Heritage never gave him problems.) Bates hired him in 1961, and by the time Weavers is working to secure the rights to the mill was closing in 2002, he was its the Bates name. The matelassés — with president. With the company shipping its styles such as the George Washington (creequipment to Minnesota, Lebel knew he had ated in 1940), the Queen Elizabeth (creto salvage the skilled craftspeople and the ated in 1953 for her coronation), and the heirloom bedspreads — at a time when he Abigail Adams (a big seller created in 1994) was considering retirement. — are rugged and beautiful. MHW is the “I was young,” he said. “I was only 71.” only company making such matelassés and Lebel scoured the world to find the looms candlewick products in the United States. and other equipment, and assembled everySee LEBEL, page 12

Congratulations to

Alfred Lebel, CEO Maine Heritage Weavers 2013 Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year From Your Proud Business Partner

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Nancy O’Brien and FIORE, Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year BY DEBRA BELL BANGOR DAILY NEWS

Visit Nancy O’Brien’s FIORE Artisan Olive Oils & Vinegars storefront in Rockland and you’ll quickly learn that there’s more to olive oil than fills a bottle. And the business, which opened in 2009, is designed to welcome in people to learn about the difference that a great olive oil or vinegar can make. Combine that with their receipt of the 2013 Women-Owned Small Business Award from Maine’s Small Business Administration and it’s a recipe for success that’s growing each year. It’s a success grown from the roots of hard work. O’Brien and her husband Pat worked in Connecticut for a major beer, wine, and spirits company prior to opening FIORE.

She handled organizing the art and design of packaging while Pat handled the printing end of the business. They had a summer home in Bass Harbor. “We used to say we would come up here for holidays and long weekends,” she said. “Then it got to a point where we were [in Maine more than Connecticut]. But we had jobs that needed to be taken care of.” Then a friend introduced the couple to a family that imports olive oil. And an idea for a Maine-based gourmet store was born. “We thought, wouldn’t it be neat to share their oil with others,” O’Brien said. “We love to cook, but didn’t have any formal knowledge or education.” That all changed when a former beauty salon space became available in Bar Harbor. The couple viewed it over Memorial Day weekend in 2009 and said yes to a new endeavor. That’s when the research started. They already knew the product, she noted. After learning from groups like SCORE to develop a business plan and identify what she would need to open FIORE, she turned to securing funding. To secure that funding, Nancy worked with Chris Young, Bar Harbor Bank and Trust’s Regional Vice President for the Ellsworth branch, to secure a Small Business Administration 50 percent guaranteed loan. “He’s a great banker and a wonderful guy,” she said. “I See FIORE PAGE 12





Still local, Still listening, Still lending, Statewide.

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Above: Nancy and Pat O’Brien pause while offering customers samples of olive oils at their Rockland store. Left: In addition to bottling fresh olive oil or vinegar straight from stainless steel vessels, FIORE also can package oil and vinegars for special events or for restaurants. These are just some of the styles of gift packaging FIORE offers.





And its glass ceiling? Maine retailer L.L. Bean, which Lebel says carries imported matelassés but so far has not opted to carry Maine Heritage Weavers’ products. (L.L. Bean declined to comment for this story.) Currently, the company employs 19 people, but it’s ready for more growth. Lebel is just happy to keep producing his quality products, and to keep everyone working. “To be able to retain those craftspeople — the designer, the loom technician, the weaver, and all — we couldn’t have done it [without them],” he said. To learn more, visit the company online at



Left: Rene Cote of Maine Heritage Weavers winds yarn onto a cylinder called a warp. This is the first step before the warp then feeds into a loom. Right: Hundreds of spools of yarn feed through the framework as they’re wound about the warp in the left-side photo.

ALLAGASH from page 7 not been able to do: We’ve grown every single year since what people call the ‘Great Depression,’ and our competitors have been stagnant or have gone backwards,” Ingram said. “And they don’t understand how we do it. It’s because ‘no’ isn’t in our vocabulary.” Plus, Ingram is having too much fun to sell. “I tell my friends that I have the best job,” he said. “I do a job that I love to do, and by default I make money at it.” To learn more, or watch its “There Are No Borders” video on YouTube (search for “Allagash International”).


Far left: Workers mount a control unit on a valve during an assembly run of a big job. The company employs about 24 people at its South Portland location, plus about 10 more internationally. Left: A sample valve, cut away to show its interior. This and several others are on display in the Allagash International lobby in South Portland.


always have him on my shoulder. He’s been very instrumental in many of the choices I’ve made. I gave him my business plan and told him what my intentions were.” Together they were able to secure the 50 percent guaranteed commercial SBA loan. “FIORE is a unique business and one that

I was unfamiliar with before Nancy proposed this business concept,” Young said. “If there’s one thing I can say about my relationship with FIORE, they had a product they believed in and executed their business plan so well. I like food and they had done so much research on the product and how to introduce it to a marketplace that they had

me at hello.” Once the loan was secured, it was action time. “Five weeks later we were in business,” O’Brien said. “And we haven’t looked back.” What FIORE offers its consumers is a product that is fresh, thereby promoting the health benefits of olive oil and balsamic. And this isn’t your store bought olive oil. “The tragedy of it all is that the consumer doesn’t know what good extra virgin olive oil is,” said Nancy’s husband Pat. “There are movements to change the labeling, but 99 percent of what is on the grocery store shelf is already rancid. They don’t show the chemistry, they’re in clear glass, and the air and light are damaging it. [In essence] it’s dead within weeks. You want to taste good fresh oil and bottle it immediately. Our oil is bottled in UV inhibiting glass and won’t be affected by the light.” In fact, a visit to a FIORE location — Bar Harbor, Rockland, and a location inside of

Bangor Wine and Cheese in Bangor — will welcome your senses to high quality olive oils and vinegars. Oil and Balsamic Vinegar are stored in stainless steel containers and once sampled and chosen are bottled the same day to protect the nutrients. That attention to detail and customer service are part of what sets FIORE apart and has customers coming back online and in person. It’s also what has enticed restaurants throughout Maine to use their products. “When I found out [FIORE had won this award] I said ‘pinch me,’” she said. “This is a huge honor. There are a lot of women-owned businesses in the state of Maine and to have been chosen for this award is amazing. To think about the support of my bank, my customers, and my employees, all of that together is amazing. It’s not an award for me, it’s an award for all of us. I’m the luckiest person in the world.” Learn more about FIORE by visiting its Web site at

A Salute to Maine's Small Business  

Celebrating the 2013 Maine SBA Small Business Award winners. Learn about great small businesses in Maine.