CALAIS, Maine — In May, the price of gasoline was tipping the $4 mark in Washington County’s largest city, but by Columbus Day the price had dropped to $3.09 a gallon.
With the global economic crisis putting a dent in the price of a gallon of gas, people here are hoping the local economy will improve for the rest of the year.
There were predictions last spring that the price of gasoline would hit $5 a gallon by summer, prompting some local people to say they would change their mode of transportation to walking, riding a bicycle or even taking a horse to work.
In fact, it has been such a lean summer for downtown businesses that one business-woman lamented that a person could throw a bowling ball down Main Street and not hit a single shopper.
But the recent drop in gas prices extends beyond Calais. At the Strawberry Patch in Perry, the price of regular Monday was $3 a gallon. According to gasbuddy.com and automotive.com, the price in the Harrington-Columbia area was $2.89 a gallon.
City Councilor Marianne Moore, who is a candidate for mayor in Calais, said Monday she was pleased to see the drop in prices and believed it would help local businesses.
“I am optimistic about the fact that gas has come down and that maybe people will begin to realize that they can indeed come into Calais and go shopping again, and instead of making the once-a-week trip, make it twice or three times even,” she said.
Moore, who owns Curves in Calais, explained how the price of gasoline had affected her business.
“I know as a businessperson … one of the things that I have seen is some people either canceled their membership or reduced the number of times they had come in and worked out,” she said. “So just like the merchants downtown it affected me as well. I am hoping that this indeed is going to help turn it around because the economic situation is just horrible all the way around.”
Mayor Vinton Cassidy, who is seeking another term in office, said he was glad to see the stock market go up on Monday and said he believed that would help restore consumer confidence.
The Dow Jones average rose 936 points Monday after major losses during recent trading sessions. The gain was by far the largest-ever point increase for a single trading day.
“We are coming right in now to the holidays and I am hoping that we see this continue,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy said he heard from his constituents that they were unhappy about gasoline prices this summer.
City Manager Diane Barnes, who had Monday off and was out shopping, said she was pleased to see the large number of shoppers from both sides of the border out picking up bargains. Calais shares a border with neighboring St. Stephen, New Brunswick. While it was Columbus Day in Maine, it was Thanksgiving in Canada and Canadian shoppers were taking advantage of their day off.
“I think it is really going to help this area having those gas prices down,” Barnes said. “People are out shopping right now, and I think the gas prices coming down is helping.”