A look back as we move ahead

By Karen Brace | Dec 31, 2015

The New Year brings a chance to look back at the past year’s accomplishments as we prepare to move forward into 2016. For me, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the past six months since I started as community development director for the Town of Camden. One of my great pleasures this year has been to welcome the owners of new businesses and owners to town who’ve chosen to live, work and do business in our community. With the kind of interest we’ve seen during 2015, I hold great optimism as we look to Camden’s future and the new year ahead.

If the past year was any indication, our community will continue to attract people who desire to live and work in Camden, just as it continues to hold us here. The top factors come into play for all of us: the quality of life, our natural surroundings, the vibrant year-round downtown, and our close sense of community. We must also extend kudos to our excellent school system that is a primary driver for young families to want to locate here. This past year we’ve seen a remarkable number of young people returning to assume leadership of a family business or to start new ones.

During the spring of 2015, Lyman Morse Boatbuilding purchased Wayfarer Marine. The company had been started in 1978 by Cabot and Heidi Lyman, carrying on the tradition of the 100-year-old Morse Boatbuilding Yard, and is now headed by their son Drew. The purchase took place in June. I had the privilege of helping to arrange the ribbon-cutting event to celebrate Wayfarer’s transition. I was immediately impressed by the fact that the Lymans made it a top priority to ensure that every single company employee could be present, not just to observe, but to be part of the ribbon-cutting itself. This included all employees from their Thomaston boatbuilding facility as well as those in Camden. The ceremony was scheduled for 4 p.m. The Thomaston yard closed at 3:30, and Drew and Cabot Lyman waited until each member of their staff arrived before beginning things began. It was important to them that all Lyman Morse employees be featured in the ribbon-cutting photo. The two holding the ribbon on either end were Drew Lyman’s children. I quickly realized how fortunate Camden had been to have this family-oriented, employee-focused company come to town to enable this critical piece of our working waterfront not just to survive, but thrive. Already Lyman Morse has made a great impact, and their arrival was a major event for us in 2015.

Also in the spring of this year, Redzone Wireless made Camden its headquarters. As the largest wireless broadband service provider in Maine, Redzone employs dozens of people at their offices on Mechanic Street and brings new technology and high-speed connectivity businesspeople and residents. Feeding off the existing fiber optics network that runs through Camden’s downtown and along many of our streets, Redzone is able to provide high-capacity upload and download Internet connections to homes and businesses. In September, Redzone announced that through a partnership with VStv the company would be donating the installation of public outdoor Wi-Fi throughout our downtown and along the waterfront during 2016. This will enhance our visitors’ experiences along with ours as we enjoy our downtown spaces.

Another business we welcomed in 2015 was Uncle Willy’s Candy Shoppe, located at 57 Bay View St. The building’s been completely renovated and the interior is as attractive as the chocolate displays! Swan’s Island Blankets opened up at 2 Bay View near the entrance to the Public Landing. The fact that we have such high quality local products like those created by Swan’s Island is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship that abounds in our area. Up on Main Street, the Black Sea Spice Company also opened its doors this past year.

The Drouthy Bear made its debut during the summer, an authentic Scottish pub that’s been a labor of love for owner Andrew Stewart. Andrew and his crew managed to create an ambiance inside their 50 Elm St. location that makes you forget you’re in Camden, adding a taste of a faraway culture to our local offerings. Up the street from the pub, at 59 Elm, Computer Solutions moved in and now provides technical assistance, new equipment, repair and computer expertise when needed.

On the other end of town, at 5 Mountain St., Midcoast Medicine and Wellness opened its doors. Doctors who formerly practiced at in Rockport now offer a general family practice at High Mountain Hall along with osteopathy, gynecological services, plant-based medicine and wellness courses.

Camden features a beautiful new hotel at 16 Bay View St. that’s currently decked out for the holidays. Stuart, Mary Ann, and Tyler Smith were hands-on with their crew carefully renovating the historic building during most months of 2015. I took a tour early in the year to see the progress, and at their open house during Christmas By the Sea weekend, hundreds walked through to take a look at the results. The view from the lounge area on the roof is hard to beat, and guest rooms are lovely and welcoming for those visiting from away.

At 52 High St., the 113-year-old Whitehall Inn came under new ownership, purchased by Robert Blood and his wife Leigh who work with the Lark Hotel Group. The Bloods bought the Whitehall from Russ and Rebecca Miller who had owned and operated the inn since 2010. The Whitehall was renovated in the spring and now features a fresh new style and flair. In May, the new Pig and Poet Restaurant opened at the Whitehall with its own unique flavor, drawing Chef Sam Talbot to town who’s received acclaim as a semi-finalist on Top Chef.

In 2015, the Smiling Cow celebrated 75 years in business. Owner Meg Quijano is the third generation in her family to run the Smiling Cow, so this was a celebration indeed. Family links continue at other local businesses too. P.G. Willey owner Willard Wight has involved the next generations of Whites in his business on Bay View Street. At Russell’s of Camden, our jeweler at 20 Mechanic St., the next generation has moved to town to take over.

In 2015, Jamie Weymouth completed his first full-year running the former family laundromat at 96 Washington St., renamed Camden Clothesline. A young couple Brian Beggarly and Molly Eddy became the new owners of Boynton McKay, located at 30 Main St., purchasing the restaurant from Phil McElhaney and Susan Penner who’d operated it for 15 years. Anna Sideris, the daughter of Meg Sideris who renovated High Mountain Hall, is now largely managing the functions of the beautiful facility. With so many younger business owners moving back and staying here to raise their families, the retirement-age image of Camden is changing.

Camden saw lots of new leaves turn over during 2015. Our town will continue to change and evolve with the seasons. May you all have a healthy and happy new year, enjoying the exceptional lifestyle that our area offers, and best of success to the new and current businesses that enable our community to thrive.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Joe Ryan | Dec 31, 2015 14:06

And the opening of PAWS Animal Adoption Center at their new location on John Street.  This was a large project that became a reality thanks to the many dedicated volunteers, board members, staff and supporting communities of the towns that it serves.

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