Thinking back to when I moved to Orono last year, it’s clear that things have changed. The cities around the Bangor area have been expanding. New buildings for businesses have gone up and roads have been fixed, but where are the businesses?
Park’s Hardware is no longer open after 120 years of business in our small town. The iconic store in the heart of the downtown was one of the few places you could go without buying from corporate powerhouses like Walmart or Home Depot. The downtown itself is now a restaurant Mecca with very little to be bought that isn’t food or drink. Without a retail market close to home, we are forced to travel to the Bangor strip for any household needs or clothing.
In order for our community to stay healthy and continue to prosper, we need small businesses to open their doors and reap the benefits of having a younger clientele. Metropolitan Soul, an alternative consignment/gift shop will be closing its Orono store by the end of the month. It has been a place for us to purchase handmade art and clothing made by our neighbors and friends.
Empty storefronts leave the downtown looking desolate and depressing. Why can’t we have college-age focused businesses close to home that have inexpensive products that we want or need? We don’t need another bar or sandwich shop, we need a place to get affordable clothes and household goods. I’ve been thinking about this for the whole summer now, and I have solutions that could bring this town back with an eco-friendly and consumer-friendly boost.
Introducing businesses that are focused on becoming successful UMaine icons is the first hurdle. If a business is looking to have a clientele that will keep coming back, they need to have decent prices. For example, The Black Bear Brewery and Tap Room have amazing beer that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. Stores that keep prices low and quality high would never have a problem in this town. Pat’s Pizza, the heart of Orono knows this first hand. They’ve been here forever, serving us cheap pizza that can only be described as heaven on a crust.
An idea of mine is a consignment shop where UMaine students can go to find cheap clothes and also sell their clothes to make a little green. This would be opening up a huge can of worms, in a good way! Who could resist giving away a couple of pairs of jeans you don’t wear anymore for a couple bucks to grab a beer or pay the electric bill for the month? Let’s get real, Orono — this town needs to move into the direction of college-based stores and shops.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be paying off my college loan until I’m about to retire. We don’t want to spend crazy amounts of money to enjoy ourselves and live the lives we lead. Investing in businesses that take care of us and prosper into iconic facets of the Orono experience is what we should be focused on right now. Keep your head up, keeping going to awesome, inexpensive and rockin’ places like the Black Bear Brewery Tap Room and Pat’s Pizza and pray some cool cats come to Orono to give us what we want.