SKOWHEGAN — The bright, lime-green-and pink handwritten cardboard signs in the windows at 7 Island Ave. are impossible to miss.
Chapter 11 Inc., a discount mattress and furniture store, has moved into the sprawling, long vacant Solon Manufacturing Co. building on the island next to the Federated Church.
The Lewiston-based company, with seven stores in Maine, is vacating its current location at Skowhegan Village Plaza on the north side of Skowhegan.
The company began moving into its new digs March 15, said store cashier Veronica Carrigan, of Norridgewock, who said she has worked for the company for seven years.
“We’re vacating the old store this week,” she said. “We’ve already got a lot of it out — most of it.”
The building was sold March 6 for $238,500 to Lincoln Real Estate LLC, according to town records. Jeff Hewett, Skowhegan’s director of economic and community development, confirmed the sale.
7 Island Avenue LLC bought the building in January 2009 for $75,000. Solon Acquisition Corp. bought it from Solon Manufacturing in February 2000 for $2.1 million.
Hewett said the new owner of the building is Bob Dinan of Lincoln Real Estate. Contacted by phone Wednesday, Dinan said his company owns Chapter 11 but would not discuss the recent transaction.
The store sells household goods such as sheets, mattresses, beds, bureaus, sofas, table sets, new clothing, a variety of children’s toys and books, lamps, rope and totes.
The company has been in business since 2004, according to the company’s website.
Rusty Landry, of Skowhegan, an employee at Chapter 11, said he has worked for the past month sanding, repairing, staining and waxing the former factory’s wooden floors. He said the company bought the former Solon Manufacturing building rather than continue to rent or lease the other location.
“This is a better location — more foot traffic here,” he said.
Landry said the building’s second floor will be used to sell clothing. The third and fourth floors probably will be used for storage, he said.
Solon Manufacturing Co. made a variety of wooden, plastic and metal products for medical, industrial and food markets.
It announced its plans to close the Skowhegan plant in October 2005, ending the company’s 70-year manufacturing presence in Maine. The company once employed about 500 people in plants in Skowhegan, Solon and New Hampshire. The plants in New Hampshire and Solon were closed in 2001 and 2003, respectively.
Mossberg Corp., one of the nation’s premier firearms manufacturers, acquired the company’s primary property in Skowhegan, Solon and Plymouth, N.H., in 2000 from longtime owner Harold V. Tewksbury, doing business as Solon Acquisition Corp., according to town records. When Mossberg bought the company, equipment was updated and employee wages were raised in an attempt to help the company grow; but competition from overseas was too intense, and the plant closed in October 2005.
Developers in 2006 told town planners they were exploring plans to turn the vacant building into 50 condominium units. Those plans never materialized.
Adam Runsdorf, president and chief executive officer of Cornerstone Investment Group, LLC of Boca Raton, Fla., closed on the purchase and sale of the Skowhegan building in January 2009. Buyer 7 Island Avenue LLC opened with an indoor flea market but didn’t last long.
It has been vacant since then.