Jim Hamilton peered into the giant cardboard boxes packed in his storage area, eying the products he will sell in his new store.

“We’ve got small kitchen appliances, we’ve got housewares, lawn and garden items, bed and bath, cosmetics, tools, sporting goods — all excess merchandise from big box stores,” he said. “A lot of it is overstock or out of season items. This is going to be new merchandise at bargain prices.”

Hamilton, 47, plans to open Hamilton’s Liquidation at 9 a.m. Monday on Water Street in Waterville’s South End, just across the street from Hathaway Creative Center.

“It’s exciting, and I hope it goes as well as we thought,” Hamilton said of his new venture.

He will operate the store with his wife, Jill, 42, who owns a day care center.

Three years ago, the couple opened Elm City Motors on Drummond Avenue, and before that he was an Oakland police officer and sergeant for 17 years.

“It was a very rewarding and interesting experience, and I’ve always said that the first million I make is when I write my book about my career as a police officer,” he said. “It was a great community, and I worked with a lot of great people.”

But time was of the essence. He wanted to spend more time with his family, and working such long hours as a police officer wasn’t so conducive to that.

“I’ve got two teenaged daughters in high school. Being in business is a lot of hours and a lot of work, but you do get to go home at night, and that’s helpful for a family.”

Family wasn’t the only reason he changed careers.

Hamilton is a big believer in the South End, where he grew up — on King Street — in the 1970s. What was once a thriving community with lots of stores, shops and cafes, now has only a few businesses, whereas Elm Plaza and Waterville Commons in the city’s north End is full of activity, he said.

Hamilton wants to see that change.

“When I grew up, there was a sub fire station down on Water Street, and there was Dick’s Market and the South End Cafe. There was a skating rink down on King Street. It was a real neighborhood, and I think that it could head back in that direction and get more locally-owned businesses like Scotty’s Pizza and Radio Communications. At least this end of Water Street is heading in that direction, where locally-owned businesses are starting to flourish. I’d love to see somebody do something with the old KFC building.”

With the Hathaway Creative Center across the street under construction for more MaineGeneral Health offices, Hamilton is convinced the area is poised for further growth.

“I think the Hathaway renaissance is going to attract more businesses to this area and that is a big reason that I came here — because I’m looking into the future and I think this is going to be a prime piece of commercial real estate in the future. I’m hopeful of that. When I was growing up, I went and bought clothes at Levine’s or Sterns downtown and those locally-owned businesses kind of went by the wayside in Waterville, but I see them starting to come back. I think that’s a great thing for the city. It creates more jobs. My father worked at Scott Paper and Kimberly-Clark and my wife’s mother worked at the Hathaway, and we saw all those jobs kind of go away. It’s nice to see jobs coming into these buildings.”

Hamilton is not naive about running a business. He grew up watching his grandparents, Evelyn and Charlie Pomerleau, operate their store, Pomerleau’s Market, on Summer Street in the South End. He also had a paper route, and after graduating from Waterville Senior High School in 1986, Hamilton worked as a district manager for the Morning Sentinel before becoming a police officer.

He is renting the 1,700-square-foot store from Randy Cook, who owns Radio Communications next door. The liquidation store space formerly was used as a warming center where people in the winter could come in to get warm, socialize and get a hot drink and a snack. Cook has since renovated the space and built a wall in the middle so as to create room for two shops. Hamilton said some other business people are interested in renting the space next to his.

The store will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Hamilton said that while he opens Monday, he plans to hold a grand opening July 4, when a lot of people come down to the South End to watch the fireworks.

Last Wednesday, Hamilton and two workers were busy opening boxes and stocking the shelves with items they plucked out of the large boxes.

“This business took a lot of on-line research,” he said. “We had to interview several companies out-of-state — there are a lot of companies nationwide that deal with liquidation merchandise. We contacted several different companies and found one, and we got our first shipment today.”

The way it works is this: Hamilton gets a tractor trailer load of merchandise from the company, but he does not know exactly what it will consist of until he opens the boxes. It’s sort of like uncovering hidden treasure.

“The tractor trailer pulled in, and we were shocked. We got home theater systems, DVD players, Halloween stuff, vacuum cleaners, pressure washers. We’re just cutting into boxes and finding out what we get as we go.”

He said he and his wife and perhaps his daughters, Kayla and Julia, will work in the store. If the business grows, they will hire additional employees, he said.

“This is unchartered water for us. We’d love to hire 100 people if we’re that busy. We’re hoping to see this end of town kind of blossom. The economy in Waterville seems to be on the upswing, so I think this is a great time for new businesses to come to the city. I’m very optimistic.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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