ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Grasshopper Shop, a fixture in downtown Ellsworth for three decades, isn’t going anywhere, but it is changing hands.
Earlier this week, owner Ken Schweikert sold the shop to Elizabeth McMillan from nearby Lamoine. McMillan said she plans to keep The Grasshopper Shop name, staff, and many of the quirky gifts, clothing, gadgets and housewares that have made the store popular with local residents and downtown visitors.
“From the customer’s perspective, there is probably going to be little to no change,” said McMillan, adding that she may make some back-office changes. Schweikert will continue to work as a consultant for the rest of the year to help with the transition.
“The essence of the store is going to remain the same,” she said.
McMillan said she has been looking for a local business to buy for about a year and was excited when she learned The Grasshopper Shop was a possibility. McMillan has a professional background in human resources, including years in the human resources department of Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.
Schweikert, who lives in Blue Hill, has operated the shop in the same location in Ellsworth since 1982. In fact, plans are in the works for a 30th anniversary celebration over Memorial Day weekend that will double as a chance for customers to meet McMillan and the new manager, Carrie Strauch.
After 37 years in the retail business, Schweikert said he felt it was time to hand the keys over to someone else.
“I am 63 years old and I just thought I am ready for a new chapter in my life,” he said.
Located on a busy corner a block from City Hall, The Grasshopper Shop is one of several locally owned boutiques in downtown Ellsworth’s vibrant Main Street business district.
Schweikert said he dreaded the thought of closing the store after 30 years and creating a retail hole in downtown Ellsworth, so he was happy to connect with someone eager to keep it open.
“I’m very pleased it is going to continue,” he said.
The Grasshopper Shop chain began in 1975 when Schweikert and family opened the first store in Belfast. A year later a second location was added in Camden and, in 1982, the Ellsworth location opened.
The business remains a family affair, of sorts. Before Tuesday’s sale of the Ellsworth location there were four Grasshopper Shop locations in Maine owned by Schweikert family members, although the different family branches operate the stores independently.
Ken Schweikert’s daughter and his first wife operate a shop in Rockland while his brother and sister-in-law own Grasshopper Shops in Bangor International Airport and in Searsport. A location in downtown Bangor closed last year and was succeeded by Mexicali Blues, a similar chain of boutique stores based in Portland. Ken Schweikert and his wife also previously operated a store in Stonington.