BREWER, Maine — Opening a new business is hard enough, but when the economy is down, it’s an even riskier investment.
In the last year, 15 businesses — some well-established, some new — have made the gamble and opened along Wilson Street.
“The city of Brewer is proud that even in tough economic times, business owners are investing in our community,” Tanya Pereira, Brewer’s economic development deputy director said Tuesday.
The list includes two restaurants, a video gaming center, a flooring provider, a sports training facility, a fruit bouquet business, a courier service, a business that sells home heating units, a car dealership, a cigarette and cigar shop, a plant nursery, an arts center, a bridal shop and a new health care facility.
A couple of the city’s new businesses are transplants from Bangor. Dream Dress Bridal and the Creative Arts Center both were located in the Queen City. The bridal shop moved from downtown Bangor to the Brewer Shopping Plaza for more parking, owner Holli Owsley said Tuesday.
“Downtown [Bangor] has no parking,” she said. “That was really the big thing. There is plenty of parking and great exposure here.”
The Creative Arts Center was forced to move from their Main Street, Bangor, location to allow for a new, wider traffic turn at the junction of Cedar Street that is being constructed where the business had been located since 1955. The business, which offers ceramic, painting, pottery and other art supplies and classes, opened in mid-February.
“We’re still unpacking,” said Teresa Wong, who owns the business with her husband, Steve.
The couple searched the area for a place to move and said they were happy when they purchased a building in Brewer adjacent to the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge.
“We like being over here,” she said. “We like being in Brewer.”
Four of the new businesses are located in the old Pepsi bottling building, which is undergoing major renovations, Pereira said.
“It’s a great space,” she said of the old bottling plant next to the Bangor-Brewer Bowling Lanes. “There is still some space there — nice, affordable space.”
Lumber Liquidators opened a 1,000-square-foot showroom and a 5,000-square-foot warehouse area for the discount flooring distribution center in October 2009.
The W.I.N. Training Center, an indoor pitching, hitting and fielding facility, opened in December 2009.
Fruit Bouquets, which makes edible fruit arrangements, opened in March. A courier service also is operating out of the building, Pereira said.
The Urban Garden Center’s Brewer location, which opened in October 2009, is the second of three branches in the state, Manager Noah Fecteau said. The first location opened years ago in Topsham and a third branch opened this year in Portland, he said.
“A lot of our customers have been traveling a really long ways [to Topsham], some from Aroostook County, for years,” he said. “We are one of the only ones in the state to carry a full line of hydroponic nutrients and equipment,” as well as lighting supplies.
Hydroponic growing is “basically growing plants without soil. You use water and nutrients.”
With so many customers traveling from northern Maine, it made sense to open a new location at a midway point, Fecteau said. The Brewer shop also offers traditional growing supplies and plants.
“We just figured a store would do well [in Brewer],” he said. “So far, so good.”
Yoshi Japanese Restaurant opened in August 2009 and offers sushi and Japanese cuisine along with a few Korean and Thai specialties. The restaurant offers Tatami seating, which is a large raised floor that customers sit on, using cushions, with their feet dangling under tables in squares cut into the floor.
Head chef Vin Luc, who goes by the name “Ting,” said Tuesday that with 30 years of cooking experience, he is confident his business will be a success.
“I’m very happy in Brewer,” he said. “There is more traffic. People can see it and they can eat and then go to Hannaford” next door.
The Brewer Medical Center, which is scheduled to open at the Wilson Square Shopping Plaza on June 29, will be operated by Bangor-based Penobscot Community Health Care. The 28,000-square-foot facility is the area’s newest health care center.
“We are thrilled that they are making such excellent use of this property on Wilson Street to offer expanded health care outreach to residents of our region,” Pereira said.
In addition to the businesses mentioned above, the other new or new-to-Brewer businesses are Bangor Car Care, Cigaret Shopper, EverGreen Home Solutions, Fruit Bouquets, The Hub Electronic Gaming Center, Northern Maine Water Testing, and Timeout Entertainment Center.
The diversification of the new businesses on Wilson Street is tremendous, Pereira said, adding that 12 other businesses have established in other parts of the city in the last year.
“Brewer is pleased to have welcomed myriad new businesses in [the last year], and we will continue to help them grow their presence here as the economy rebounds,” Pereira said.