CAMDEN, Maine — Before a weekend of preseason sales, owners of older Camden businesses who make up the Downtown Business Group welcomed the new kids in town with a potluck at “Business is Blooming in Camden.”
This weekend, Camden businesses are staying open later and offering sidewalk deals to try to draw in locals before tourist season. But before all that was dinner.
Business owners closed up shop Thursday and headed to Bayview Street for a potluck.
“The businesses established here are welcoming the new ones. That’s important in a small town,” said Karen Brace, who runs member services for the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. “This shows the vibrancy of Camden and shows off the entrepreneurs who were willing to start businesses here.”
About 70 people mulled around sandwiches and chatted at The New England Real Estate Co. and The Antique Garden Shoppe.
“We have all the businesses here downtown every day working, but I’m not sure they all get together much. This helps them stay energized,” said Pat Finnegan, Camden’s town manager.
Susan Dorr and her daughter recently purchased a consignment shop on Route 1. Dorr frequently gets questions such as, “Where do I get the best ice cream in town?” and she wanted to have some answers lined up before tourist season.
“People come into my shop and say, ‘where can I find this or that?’ So I like to know everything,” Dorr said. “I don’t think businesses here compete — they collaborate.”
Other businesses send customers her way too, she said.
Sisters Jessica Neves-Graham and Becky Neves also came to make connections with established businesses. The two plan to begin driving their taco truck around Knox and Waldo counties but to comply with local ordinances they must set up shop on private land with the owner’s permission.
“We need other businesses,” Becky Neves said while standing near a platter of chocolate-covered strawberries.
So far the sisters, who own Taco Libre, have agreed to serve lunch at Fisher Plow in Rockland and Yachting Solutions in Rockport.
“It’s also important to our brand that other businesses know we won’t be on Main Street,” Jessica Neves-Graham said.
“Yeah. We won’t park in front of your business,” added Becky Neves.
The taco truck owners have worked with local governments to figure out ordinances and such, and not all of that work was easy, they said. After the sisters’ hard work, the potluck was refreshing.
“I think Camden is working really hard to be welcoming to new businesses. Camden is getting on track. New businesses in Rockland and Belfast are thriving. Camden is catching up,” Jessica Neves-Graham said.