WATERVILLE —  When Joe Sleeper noticed small businesses at Elm Plaza off Main Street growing and expanding into larger spaces, he liked what was happening.

Bull Moose music quadrupled its size by expanding into the former Mr. Paperback next door, Olympia Sports took over the larger former Fashion Bug space and now Maurice’s, a clothing store, plans to move from the plaza to a larger spot next to Olympia.

“That was very intriguing  — that really caught my attention,” Sleeper said. “I’ve shopped a lot in other markets and at a lot of other shopping centers. To see that in your market is very intriguing.”

Sleeper, an owner of the family-owned Maine business Sleeper’s Clothing and Footwear, plans to open a store in the Maurice’s space this fall, after Maurice’s moves a few storefronts away.

Sleeper’s also has stores in Bangor, Caribou, Ellsworth and celebrates its 100th anniversary next year.

“Waterville is a good, natural progression for us,” Sleeper said. He said Elm Plaza is one of the things he really likes about the market.

The Waterville Sleeper’s, which sells clothes that are “very classic outdoor and work apparel” is slated to open in early October.

Sleeper’s will bring some employees to the store from other sites to help set up shop and then may hire an additional five to 10 people, he said.

He has other connections to Waterville. Jeff Corey, co-owner of Day’s Jewelry Store, is a cousin, and Mark Ford, also of Day’s, is a brother-in-law.

Sleeper’s  is one of several recent business moves in the city.

Cumberland Farms on College Avenue recently closed for renovations and is expected to open again in a few weeks, Flo’s Flower Cart moved recently from 220 Main St. to 43 Elm St., into a former thrift store space, and Modern Underground, a vintage furniture and accessories store, has opened at 103 Main St. downtown.

Kimberly Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, welcomes the changes.

“We see it as a sign that the economy is picking up and consumer confidence is increasing and we’re very encouraged by all the new business openings,” Lindlof said.

Lindlof said the chamber encouraged Sleeper’s to move to the city a few years ago.

“I think it’s going to be a great addition to Waterville,” she said. “We need men’s clothing desperately.”

The Modern Underground is owned by Lisa Kallgren and is directly under Jorgensen’s Cafe. Its entrance, however, is off Temple Street, just across the parking lot from Lebanese Cuisine restaurant.

The store offers modern mid-20th century eclectic furnishings, Kallgren, of Burnham, said.

She buys her inventory at lawn sales and specialty auctions and previously sold them online. She said she got into the business about 10 years ago.

“No one else was doing it and now, everyone else is doing it,” she said. “I sell a lot to designers in New York and California and to personal collectors.

She said a group from Boston this week visited and bought lighting and “an obscure clock from my industrial section.”

“I’m priced a lot lower than Boston and New York — confirmed by the young people from Boston,” she said.

Meanwhile, Larry Rogers, who owns Flo’s Flower Cart with his wife, Jeri, said their new space on Elm Street allowed them to build a larger 220-square-foot cooler. The cooler in their former shop was 180 square feet.

“Customers can go right inside and help themselves,” he said.

In business since 1936, Flo’s has another special feature now.

Maynard’s Chocolates has moved into the flower shop. When people order flowers, they may also order chocolates to be delivered.

“We sell them both — we encourage it when people call,” he said.

The store is open seven days a week.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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