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Signs of economic upswing in Camden's downtown

By Susan Mustapich | May 03, 2021
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Carissi Parini was putting finishing touches on her new infant and toddler clothing and gift store Blue Jay Boutique, opening May 6.

CAMDEN — Informal signs taped in windows were the first indicator of new and returning businesses moving into Camden's downtown.

Now, businesses are rapidly filling commercial spaces that emptied one-by-one in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Surroundings Home Goods has reopened at 38 Main. The business previously was located across the street, in a building that sold last fall.

Owners Wesley and Erika Benham found the new space they were looking for when longtime owner of The Right Stuff decided it was time to retire. They opened their doors April 28 and "are looking forward to an excellent summer. We are blessed to own a store and live in such a great place," Wesley Benham said May 3.

At 2 Main St., Blue Jay Boutique owner Carissa Parini is getting ready to open a new children's store May 6.

The boutique will sell “adorable sweaters, blankets, basics and much more,” she said. "The store will also sell books, stuffed animals and baskets “to round out the perfect gift.” Parini will also have merchandise for moms, including jewelry, candles, bags and body products.

The store, located on the corner of Main and Mechanic streets, has been in her family for decades.

Parini is a fourth-generation Main Street merchant. In 1923, her great-grandfather, Harold Corthell, became owner of Haskell and Corthell, a clothing and shoe store, which her grandfather, Kenneth Dickey, eventually took over in the 1960s.

“When Haskell and Corthell closed in 1994, my father Bill Dickey opened Camden Custom Embroidery here at 2 Main Street,” Parini said. “He and my mom Liana retired last fall, which opened up an opportunity for me to follow my dream of being a small business owner, thus continuing the family presence here on Main Street. I’m proud to follow in my great-grandfather, grandfather and father’s footsteps.”

Liberty Graphics plans to open a store in May on Mechanic Street, in a space that was formerly the upper level of Sherman’s.

The company is a Maine apparel screen printer known for high quality, nature-based artwork and designs printed primarily on tee shirts, said Jeff Lord. Many designs are by Maine artists.

The store will sell Liberty Graphics printed shirts in adult, youth and toddler sizes, and organic cotton infant onesies. Products will include a new line of printed tea towels, as well as a selection of gifts.

The company's original store in Liberty Village is now the outlet. A second store is in Portland’s Old Port and Camden will be the third location.

Pursuing another store in the Midcoast was a goal, Lord said. He noticed an increasing number of empty stores in Camden last fall and early winter. He talked with the owner and general manager and thought this might be the right time.

"We looked at Rockland and Belfast and looked at Camden. For our purposes, this space is great and the best location we saw," Lord said. Since early April, he and store manager Sue Chesser have been setting up for a May opening.

Maine Sport will also reopen its Camden location at 24 Main St., according to General Manager Troy Curtis.

On the east side of Main Street, a new custom-made sign above the entrance to the store next to Lily, Lupine and Fern announces an eatery called Mixed Greens.

Surroundings has reopened at 38 Main St., a new location for the home goods store. (Courtesy of: Surroundings)
Liberty Graphics is opening a new store featuring the company's screen-printed tee shirts and gifts on Mechanic Street in May. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Help wanted and opening soon signs in storefront throughout downtown Camden are a sign of economic vitality. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
A new eatery is opening on Main Street in Camden next to Lily, Lupine and Fern. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
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