MONMOUTH — Organized hoarding? Targeted salesmanship? Whatever you call it, Mike Burgess is running a different kind of enterprise.
Burgess, 43, of Leeds, purchased the old North Monmouth schoolhouse — where he went to Head Start classes as a boy — from the town of Monmouth for $50,000 in 2006.
Inside the former three-room school, Burgess started the Bottles and More Redemption business in one old classroom. It gives back 6 cents rather than the standard 5 cents per beverage container. He said he returns the extra penny just to help out local residents.
In the other two former classrooms, one of which still has a blackboard on the wall and a 13-foot high tin ceiling, Burgess has crammed all sorts of odds and ends. He has everything from 22 framed Super Bowl pins, to Avon bottles, to salt and pepper shakers shaped like animals or cars. He has thousands of DVDs and a collection of old vinyl records, in addition to a number of hard-to-find record players as well as console-sized radios and phonographs.
All of the stuff is for sale, and some of it for a pittance. The records, for example, which might include collector’s items, go for 50 cents apiece.
Sometimes Burgess will trade some of his stuff for something a customer brings in.
“We buy, sell and swap,” he said, “just to help out people. In today’s economy, some people can’t afford to buy things.”
Burgess has a fair amount of furniture, such as wooden tables and chairs and larger items such as sofas and easy chairs, some of which are kept outside. He picks up most of his merchandise at auctions.
“I go all over the place,” said Burgess, a former manager of several Cumberland Farms stores in the Lewiston area. “I listen to what people ask for when they come in here. A lot of times that’s how I keep this going. Usually I’ll find it for people, and I can give them a lot better price.”
Burgess has several brand-new kerosene lanterns. Not all of his stuff is used; some of it is still in its original packaging. After items have been on his shelves for 30 days without moving, he takes it to be auctioned off to someone else.
“I find auctions fun,” Burgess said. “There’s a lot of people I’ve gotten to know. It’s kind of like a little war between us.”
Burgess said North Monmouth lost its commercial heart years ago with the closure of Wilson’s Variety Store on Main Street.
Shelia Sanford, North Monmouth postmaster and president of the Monmouth Museum, said the North Monmouth School operated as a school from 1903 until it closed in the early 1970s. The school educated about 90 students a year in kindergarten through eighth grade, Sanford said. She attended the school from 1947 to 1950.
After the school closed, it was used as a Head Start center for about five years, Sanford said. Then it was used as the polling place for North Monmouth residents before town voting was consolidated at Cumston Hall in the center of Monmouth. The North Monmouth Community Club also held meetings there before Burgess bought the building.
After Burgess bought the schoolhouse, he removed asbestos from the basement of the building and he painted the outside bright yellow, although he didn’t quite complete that job.
He first tried using the old school and its schoolyard as a “family fun park” with a bounce house and other attractions. When that proved to be unsuccessful, he turned to his current pursuits two years ago.
His helper, Robert, counts bottles that are stored in the rear classroom. Burgess’ mother, Pauline, also helps with the business. She and Burgess often can be found putting together intricate puzzles. Pauline so far has assembled and glued together 150 puzzles.
Burgess’ two dogs, Bangah, an Alaskan Siberian huskie, and Shadow, a black Labrador retriever, also are omnipresent at the business.
Burgess still works 20 to 30 hours a week at a Cumberland Farms store, and he goes to about one auction a week. Some of his merchandise is simply donated by people who want to get rid of it.
“We’ve got some wonderful people who come in,” he said. “A lot of people bring their bottles in and come in to see what’s in here. It’s kind of keeping the community together. A lot of people are shopping locally.”