ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce has announced that this year’s Top Drawer Award will go to Merrill Enterprises, a four-generation Ellsworth institution that includes Merrill’s Blueberry Farms and Freezers and Merrill Furniture.
The Top Drawer award is given annually by the Chamber to a member who has made substantial contribution to the growth, development and improvement of the chamber region.
Since 1980, when the first Top Drawer Award was presented, the list has become a veritable ‘Who’s Who” for outstanding prominent area businesses and leaders, who have not only created and managed a successful business but have given back to the community in countless ways.
“Our Board is very pleased to honor this longstanding Ellsworth business, which has given our community employment opportunities, community service and outstanding leadership through its many home-grown companies” stated Alden “Buddy” Saunders, Chair of the EACC Board, in a press release. “Merrill’s is a cornerstone of the Ellsworth business landscape.”
Self-starting entrepreneurs — that is the Merrill Family. n 1925 Albert Merrill, along with his son Osmon, burned their first wild blueberry field. To supplement what is a seasonal industry at best, the family began selling radios and washing machines out of a storefront on Franklin street. This business then expanded to include a gas station, garage and the sale of tires and batteries.
All of the businesses on Franklin street and the Merrill family home were destroyed by the Ellsworth fire of 1933. In the 1930s, the blueberry business expanded to include freezing of the berries, at the Hancock County creamery, prior to this blueberries had only been canned. The process then moved to the Hancock County Cold Storage plant in Ellsworth and then in 1980 the family bought land in Hancock and built the blueberry processing plant and freezer that exists today.
While the family continued to expand the blueberry business, Osmon Merrill continued to look for other ways to continue business year round. He connected with Bar Harbor businessman Bernard Cough who was buying up slightly damaged goods. Osmon Merrill bought a train car load of furniture from him and Merrill Furniture was born. The store started on Franklin street and then the Merrill family made the bold move to the undeveloped High Street. Merrill furniture still operates today from its High street location where over the years it has grown and expanded several times. It has become one of the largest and most recognized furniture stores in Maine with delivery trucks going all over the state. From a blueberry field to freezers, and furniture, Merrill Enterprises is good ole Yankee ingenuity and family business at its best.
Company spokesman Bob Merrill stated “it is such an honor to be nominated for the Top Drawer award, and even more so to win it.” “The chamber board represents such a great cross section of our business community, I am so pleased to receive this.” Bob states that there are still 5 Merrill family members working in the blueberry and furniture business that make up Merrill Enterprises today.
The Top Drawer Award will be presented to Merrill Enterprises at the Chamber Annual Meeting to take place May 29, 2014 at the Big Cats Event Center in Hancock. This year’s meeting is co-sponsored by Bar Harbor Bank and Trust company and Rudman and Winchell Counselors at Law.