GARDINER — The downtown incentives program that lured Brunswick-based Frosty’s Donuts in June has attracted another regional business to the city: Emery’s Meat & Produce.

The family-owned meat market with another store in Newport closed its Augusta and Monmouth stores this week as it opens its new location next to Dunkin’ Donuts on Bridge Street in Gardiner.

The business is receiving an incentives package of around $40,000 through Gardiner Growth Initiative, a collaborative program from the Gardiner Board of Trade, Gardiner Main Street, the Bank of Maine and the city. The program offers forgivable loans funded by a $125,000 gift from the bank and $50,000 in microgrants funded by the board of trade.

For the business owners, the incentives allow them to open a larger storefront and offer more types of products. The majority of the $30,000 forgivable loan awarded went to retrofitting the space, and the rest helped fund a new walk-in cooler and a meat saw that will allow the business to offer bone-in cuts of meat, said Leon Emery, who owns the business with his wife and children

“We wanted to take a next step, a bigger place,” Emery said while standing in the new location Wednesday morning. “The cards fell exactly the way that God meant them to fall, and by golly, here we are.”

Emery, the majority owner, said the business already has seen a strong showing of support from local customers, with some even helping the business move into the new location.


“We’ve really laid it all on the table here, but we’re enthused because our customers have supported us,” Emery said.

He said the business polled its customers before the move and found out nearly all would travel to Gardiner if it opened the new store there.

“It’s a positive not only for us, but it’s a positive for Gardiner because it’s going to draw a lot of people into the town of Gardiner to shop at other stores,” Emery said.

The meat market is the type of business the city and the organizations behind the program envisioned would move to Gardiner when they launched the program in April.

The program was designed to provide incentives to businesses looking to open new locations in downtown Gardiner or to existing businesses to expand their footprints. Preference is given to well-known businesses and businesses in industries targeted by the program, including restaurants with room for live music, sporting goods stores and professional services.

A meat market was also on that list, and Emery’s Meat & Produce was actually one of a handful of specific businesses targeted by organizers, said Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street.


The idea of the program is to attract a critical mass of businesses in the downtown that will help sustain each other.

“We know that we’ll have the maximum effect if we can create sort of a wave of businesses close to each other, but we want to make sure we do that in the right way and have the right businesses,” Wright said.

Dennis Wheelock, a broker for Magnusson Balfour and a program committee member, reached out to the meat market and helped sell the idea of locating in Gardiner, Emery said.

Although the business had been targeted by the groups, the fact that it would be closing the Augusta and Monmouth stores led to it scoring lower on the program guidelines, Wright said. The program was envisioned to provide incentives for businesses expanding to new locations, not relocating, he said.

“It is something that we struggled a bit with, because this was originally about just expansion. We certainly don’t want to be seen in other communities as poaching their businesses,” Wright said.

But in the long run, Wright said, the committee thought the meat market would be able to grow its business in the region.


Emery’s Meat & Produce sells both local and out-of-state meat, but Emery, of Litchfield, said the plan for the Gardiner store is to focus more on local offerings. The store will use 75 percent of the $10,000 microgrant to buy local products and the other 25 percent for working capital, he said.

“Our emphasis is on selling as much local as possible,” Emery said.

Denise Emery, Leon Emery’s wife, said she and her husband think having the Gardiner location in the same building as Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and Curves will prove successful.

“Everybody knows where Hannaford and Dunkin’ Donuts are, so that’s a good thing. We think we’re going to be real busy,” she said.

Businesses can apply for loans worth up to $50,000 that will be forgiven if the businesses stay in the city for at least five years. The loans must be used for fixed assets and infrastructure investments. The city is administering the loan program, but no taxpayer dollars are being used to fund it. The grants are worth up to $10,000 and can be used for working capital such as inventory.

The locations must fall within Gardiner Main Street’s coverage area, which extends from the three-way intersection near the Kennebec River bridge to the Gardiner Common and through the downtown.


The city also assisted by approving policy that made specific major infrastructure improvements, including installing elevators, to downtown buildings eligible for tax breaks.

The only other business to be approved for incentives, Frosty’s Donuts, opened last summer in a vacant downtown storefront previously occupied by Water Street Cafe.

More than half of the original $125,000 for loans and $50,000 for grants remains to be claimed, Wright said. The bank had agreed to take part through 2014, but Wright said he doesn’t expect the bank to end its commitment.

When asked when he hoped to award the remaining money to businesses, Wright said “as quickly as possible.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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