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Downtown Bangor’s Grasshopper Shop in its final week

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Pam Johnson (left) of Bucksport is helped by Grasshopper Shop employee Bianca Borman on Monday, Feb. 14, 2011, at the Bangor store as Johnson shops for a Valentine's Day present. The store will close Monday, Feb. 21, 2011. "I have bought a lot of things in here over the years," said Johnson, who is not concerned about the closing as she plans to shop at the Searsport Grasshopper Shop after the Bangor store closes.
By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — By this time next week, the curtain will close on a longtime staple of the city’s downtown retail scene.

The Grasshopper Shop will shut its doors for good Monday, Feb. 21, paving the way for the arrival of another retailer, Portland-based Mexicali Blues, in the spring.

Shop owners Rick and Laurie Schweikert announced last summer that they had reached a deal with Mexicali Blues’ owners Peter and Kimberly Erskine to buy the building and take over the unique boutique in the heart of Bangor’s downtown.

“We didn’t know what to expect during this process, but it has gone well,” Rick Schweikert said Monday. “People have been coming in telling us how long they have been coming and that they don’t know what they’ll do once we’re gone. But a lot of people are excited about Mexicali Blues, too.”

The Schweikerts bought the five-sided building in West Market Square, known as the Wheelright Building, in the late 1980s, and the Grasshopper Shop has anchored the space ever since. The couple, who also own and operate locations at Bangor International Airport and in Searsport, where they live, plan to focus on those businesses.

Rick’s brother Ken Schweikert owns similar but unaffiliated Grasshopper Shops in Rockland and Ellsworth.

Mexicali Blues has a history of success similar to the Grasshopper Shop. The retailer first opened in Portland’s Old Port in 1988 and has since expanded to locations in Newcastle, Raymond and Freeport. According to Peter Erskine, Mexicali Blues had long been interested in expanding into the Bangor market but did not want to compete with the Grasshopper Shop. Now, it doesn’t have to.

The goal is to open the Bangor Mexicali Blues by April 1 after the building’s new owners make some minor renovations.

In the meantime, the Grasshopper Shop has been offering discounts of up to 70 percent off to clean out its inventory.

The Wheelright Building, built just before the Civil War, is steeped in history. It survived the epic fire of 1911 that wiped out most of downtown Bangor and has housed numerous prominent city businesses in the past.

Both the Schweikerts and Erskines have declined to reveal the purchase price for the building, but it was valued at $390,600 on April 1, 2010, according to the city’s assessing office.

In addition to the shop on the ground level (it also occupies the basement), the space includes four apartments and office space that is rented to an advertising consulting group. The tenants of the additional floors are not expected to change when Mexicali Blues takes over.

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