Maine small-business owners report ‘upbeat’ market at harvest festival in Bangor

Dan Stevens (left), owner of Captain Mowatt's of Portland, pours chips so a patron can try one of 17 varieties of his company's hot sauce at the Maine Harvest Festival at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Saturday, Nov. 16. The event continues Sunday.
Dan Stevens (left), owner of Captain Mowatt's of Portland, pours chips so a patron can try one of 17 varieties of his company's hot sauce at the Maine Harvest Festival at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Saturday, Nov. 16. The event continues Sunday. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 16, 2013, at 6:23 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 17, 2013, at 7 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Hundreds of people inside the Cross Insurance Center over the weekend navigated their way around dozens of vendor tables, eager to see the offerings of local businesses.

The business climate in Maine is “getting better all the time. No question about it,” said Dan Stevens, owner of Captain Mowatt’s in Portland, one of more than 100 vendors at the Maine Harvest Festival. Stevens offered 17 different hot sauces at the two-day event.

Stevens’ optimism about Maine business wasn’t an anomaly. Several Maine business owners said Saturday that business is good.

“This is our seventh year and it’s the busiest year we’ve had so far,” said Shannon Bissonnette, owner of Better Than Average based in Mechanic Falls. Her business makes a variety of jellies, including one modeled after Maine soda staple Moxie. “I think if you have a product that people want, you won’t have a problem.”

“I think it’s clearly getting better. We’re in a premium market with organic milk and we’ve seen sales strengthen,” said David Bright, secretary to the board of directors of Maine’s Own Organic Milk Co.

Businesses at the festival ranged from farms and dairies sharing their products to woodcarvers, maple syrup makers, bakers and wineries.

A stronger economy is credited with helping Maine businesses.

“I just think that people are a little bit more upbeat. The housing market is coming back,” said Bright. “Generally, people are pulling together and thinking the world isn’t as bad as they thought it was.”

Business owners weren’t eager to credit politicians or state and national governments for the turnaround.

“Not at all. I think it’s a cycle, and I think the cycle is coming around,” said Stevens.

“All this stuff is cyclical,” said Bright.

Customers are opening their wallets again to support local businesses, said Carrie Tessier, owner of Somerset Coffee and Tea Co. of Skowhegan.

“We have a lot of support from Skowhegan,” she said. “If people are going to spend their money, they’re going to keep it local and support their neighbor. That’s what we’ve seen in our area.”

“I think people have a little bit more money to spend and they want to spend it locally,” said Bissonnette. “People would rather buy some of [our jellies] than a Smuckers.”

Vendors praised festival organizers for helping create a high turnout.

“Being the holiday season, this is a great weekend to host a show,” said Bissonnette. “People are here from all over the place shopping this weekend.”

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