Publishing perks ... and thank you Joe Chasse, R.I.P.

By Reade Brower | Aug 09, 2012

As publisher and owner I get a few perks.

In past years it has occasionally got me a premier parking space and today it gives me the forum to write whenever I want, whatever I want.

The Beatles said it best when they sang out, circa 1967;

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, Gonna try with a little help from my friends
Oh, I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends,
with a little help from my friends”

Without the help of others, few of us get where we need to go. Without others to share our joy, whatever success we might find is empty.

In my early years starting The Free Press, resources were very limited but help from the business community was abundant and came from many, many places.

At the very top of the list was Joe Chasse.

Joe was owner of Rockland Wholesale and The Shore Save Supermarket, both Rockland mainstays during the mid-‘80s when I was just a young man trying to make a living.

I learned that Joe passed from this earth last week and it gave me a pause; without Joe, there would most likely not have been a newspaper and perhaps a much different “me” and a much different life than I now know.

I didn’t know Joe extremely well on a personal level, but let me tell you a little bit about what I did know about him.

First, he was a mentor and he believed in keeping it local.

His Rockland Shore Save sat on the parking lot that is now Rite Aid and I was nestled right behind him in the small house between The Myrtle Street House and Jones’s Barber Shop. The year was 1983 and Joe was mailing out his supermarket flyers to every home in the Rockland and Thomaston areas.

I was pounding out a living by publishing a four-page coupon sheet, doing menus for Marcel’s (the former restaurant at Samoset), publishing the Friendship Sloop book, selling batteries, balloons, film and cassettes — generally making a living the “Maine Way,” doing “a little of this, and a little of that.”

One afternoon I made my way over to the supermarket and talked with Joe about moving his ad circular preparation from Augusta to Rockland and, after he agreed, made the $600 purchase necessary to secure my first labeling machine.

Going forward, on Thursday mornings, my girlfriend (now wife) Martha and I would label and prepare about 6,000 flyers for the post office. It was not a huge job and took about four hours. It was the beginning and paid us about $150 per week for our efforts.

In 1985 I approached Joe again and he agreed to be an insert into my “new” Free Press (at that point, only an idea); further, he would take his postage savings and use it to pay for a full-page advertisement on my back cover. That was enough for me to give it a go and the rest is Free Press history.

But, the rest of the story is that Joe continued to be a mentor and supporter. He gave me space in his back room, at no cost, to help our Friday stuffing crew prepare The Free Press on busy weeks. He loaned me his truck on occasion. He even bailed me out of jail (somehow I managed to get hauled off to the MS fundraising brig on deadline day and Joe showed me once again his generous spirit as he single-handedly met my goal and got me sprung in time to make another paper deadline a reality).

Joe had a way of simplifying things for me.

One weekend I went in to collect my weekly postage check and Joe listened to me as I lamented how every week was a struggle. I knew the pressures he was under trying to compete with the Hannaford’s (then Sampson’s Supermarket whose stores surrounded Joe’s), Shaw’s and the IGAs of his world.

I told him every Saturday and Monday my job was to go out and collect the $5,000 needed to make postage, printing and payroll. I asked him how he coped each week and he told me that all businesses face the same issues and challenges, no matter how big or how small. He told me that the only difference in his business was an extra “0” (he needed $50,000 to meet his weekly nut). That notion was somehow settling to me, the idea that we were all alike, big and small. I realized after that conversation that we were all after the same thing, just trying to make it.

My condolences to his family and friends; Joe Chasse made Rockland a better community and me a better person. One day when I was low and my family out of town, he invited me over for a nice steak dinner on his grill. It was a small gesture but one I still remember today because it bolstered me because it made me somehow feel that I mattered. He had taken the time to invite me over, cook for me, and share his wine.

In life, there are few things more important than thinking you matter and that you somehow make a difference to the world.

To that, I want Joe’s family and friends to know that he made a difference in my life and that he mattered.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Jody-Ann McKee | Aug 16, 2012 14:13

Reade, thank-you for sharing this story, I hope all have taken  time to read such a honest respectful story, yes Joe, was a very nice man, but I never could sell him ad  :)....... I was with the Courier Gazette , early 90's. :)

Posted by: Martha Johnston-Nash | Aug 14, 2012 21:18

Wonderful article, thanks for sharing your story with all of us.

Posted by: Kerry Hadley | Aug 11, 2012 07:30

He was a good man and good neighbor.

Posted by: Mike Woods | Aug 09, 2012 23:25

Nice Job Reade.. I remember you coming in Shore Save going up the stairs in the front of the store talking to Joe.  My first job was from Joe and Shore Save back when I was 15 and now 28 years later I'm a young business owner like Joe.  I often look over to Rite Aid (Where Shore Save Was) from Trackside and reminisce about all of the fun times I had at the store. Joe was a good guy to me.

Posted by: Kathryn Ann Hardt | Aug 09, 2012 20:18

A beautifully written tribute.

Posted by: Jill Perry | Aug 09, 2012 15:40

So very kind Reade, and such a very good description of who Joe was.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Aug 09, 2012 14:50

As you make a difference in our lives with the positive slant on what is going on here in Mid-Coast Maine, Mr. Brower. Can see you are a firm believer in "Pass It Forward". No wonder so many have that "Can Do" spirit around here. :)

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