LINCOLN, Maine — Bruce Michaud believes in saving souls one conversation at a time.
That’s why the New Vision Church of the Nazarene pastor moved his New Vision Thrift Store from his Lee Road church to a storefront among the block of buildings at 92 West Broadway, he said. Besides earning money for his ministry, his store has helped the ministry grow from seven to 16 members since the move in November.
“We are looking for ways to expand our ministry and help our community. Most of my ministry happens now out in the community, not at the church,” Michaud said Wednesday. “People don’t come to the church and ask about the ministry. I think they find that a little intimidating, but here, eventually the question comes up — ‘Why are you doing this store?’”
Michaud’s is one of two thrift stores that have expanded this winter, town Code Enforcement Officer Dan Whittier said.
The Lincoln Region Food Cupboard Thrift Shop opened in a former U.S. Cellular storefront adjacent to the Lincoln Color Center at 274 West Broadway, and a thrift store operation expanded recently at the Benjamin Tibbetts Inc. hardware store at 100 West Broadway, Whittier said.
The food cupboard store operates on limited hours — from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. A worker at Tibbetts said the store’s owner was handling a family emergency and wasn’t available.
The New Vision store has enjoyed brisk business on West Broadway. More than a dozen customers came into the store on Wednesday afternoon, and volunteer workers Darian Hooper of Millinocket and Jessica Tenney of Lincoln were busy restocking shelves.
“You really see how people like to shop at thrift stores when you volunteer at a place like this,” Tenney said.
Diane Wotton of Lincoln said she has been a regular customer at the store since it opened on West Broadway.
“You can get five good things here for the price you’d pay for one thing at most other places,” Wotton said.
With only about 850 square feet, the store doesn’t have a lot of space for its donated goods, and it offers everything from dishes and used appliances to clothes and sporting goods. The Michauds have a storage room behind the storefront and also keep a large trailer of goods, Michaud said.
Michaud finds that his store serves all kinds of people, but mostly those with incomes that aren’t quite low enough to qualify for aid programs, he said. Proceeds from donated items usually go right back into the community through the aid Michaud’s church administers, he said.
“I am not trying to recruit people just for my church,” Michaud said. “I am out here talking about God and hoping to get more people into the Word. If they don’t go to my church, that’s fine. I will direct them to other people’s churches when I can.”
A veteran with 27 years of service in the U.S. Army, which he retired from as a sergeant and artillery gunner in 2008, Michaud said the combination of running a church and a store seems to be working well for him.
“This,” he said, “is the best thing I have ever done in my life.”