GARDINER — A day after ribbon-cutting ceremonies to open his business and four others, Dennis Meehan sat in his office at Summit Medical Marijuana while customers stopped in and looked around his shop at 189 Water St.

The shop, which sells herbal bath and beauty products, and home accessories is very much a family enterprise, with all of the Meehan family contributing in some way.

But that’s not all they do.

Meehan and his wife Tracy are medical marijuana caregivers, who had been working from home. He and his family started mulling the idea of having a shop about a year ago.

“It was very hard to reach a lot of people with an at-home business,” he said. And while he and his wife Tracy were initially reluctant to tell people they grow medical marijuana and make products to treat people, their desire to share what they know overcame their hesitancy.

They scouted locations in Scarborough and Freeport, but they opted to open their shop in Gardiner, where they moved more than a dozen years ago from southern Maine. Once they decided on the location, it all went fairly quickly.

The Meehan family’s shop offers a range of herbal products — not cannabis-related — in the form of soaps and bath and beauty products made by Tracy Meehan and their daughters, and wooden signs made by his sons. One daughter makes doggy handkerchiefs and another daughter displays her photographs.

“We all chip in to this. I am so proud of everything that this has done for my family. I never thought this would offer my family this level of sort of bliss. They have worked so hard,” he said.

And education is a big part of what they do, Meehan said.

“We want to educate the public and all health care providers who don’t have this information. My wife and I will be going to as many elderly communities as we can on the weekend, and we’ll have classes.”

As caregivers, Dennis and Tracy Meehan grow medical marijuana and make products like skin creams, tinctures and other items like bath bombs, the idea of their 12-year-old daughter.

While Meehan has used medical marijuana himself following a back injury and a period of time taking prescription painkillers, he said he’s also seen its impact on others, specifically his grandmother, who was suffering from heart disease and his grandfather, who had pancreatic cancer at the end of his life.

“I often get emotional about this stuff because of what it’s done for me and my family,” he said.

While state officials grapple with what regulations that ought to be applied to marijuana retail enterprises in the wake of the November 2016 statewide vote to legalize recreational marijuana, medical marijuana is not affected by that legislation.

Officials from the city of Gardiner and Gardiner Main Street joined other businesses owners in opening their new enterprises.

Fernando Jantoro Stelser has opened his latest Domino’s restaurant in the former Maine Trust & Banking building on the corner of Water and Church streets. Bobbi Knowlton, who has operated Raggamuffins, a consignment shop at 279 Water St., has expanded to open Little Sprouts by Raggamiffins, a kids consignment shop at 236 Water St. Wholistic Home Care of Maine opened at 251 Water St., offering in-home care for elderly people and those with disabilities. And Kennebec Treasures at 159 Water St., which, among other things, sells things made from wood reclaimed from the Kennebec River.

Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine, said Gardiner has made a commitment to attract retail development and other kinds of economic development.

“It’s anecdotal, but it’s definitely been clear that with the improving economy, we’re seeing a lot of creative retail open up,” Picard said.

In Gardiner, where businesses like Frosty’s and the Craft Beer Cellar among others have opened up in recent years, it’s no different.

The city has faced challenges, Picard said, but the 2015 Water Street fire helped steel everyone to resolve to put time and energy into the city’s downtown. Patrick Wright has dual roles in Gardiner. He’s the executive director of Gardiner Main Street, which works to build Gardiner as a hub of culture, commerce and community, and he’s the city’s economic development coordinator.

“It’s important in the course of downtown development to give support to entrepreneurs of all stripes — a locally owned Domino’s franchise or a local citizen trying to turn a passion into a business,” Wright said.

Gardiner Main Street is investing in promoting business in Gardiner. In November, it concluded a deal with Camden National Bank, which donated 149-167 Water St. to Gardiner Main Street.

In the long term, Gardiner Main Street envisions finding developing the spaces into maker spaces, where artisans and crafts people can have space to produce their work, and an affordable place to live.

In the short term, it has relocated its own offices to the buildings and it expanded its co-working space, while it works out the details of the bigger project.

And it’s now the landlord of Kennebec Treasures, a pop-up shop, which is anticipated to be open through the summer and into the fall.

“Kennebec Treasures approached Gardiner Main Street to see if we could provide space for them to test their concept as a pop-up shop this summer,” he said. “We were able to support them with the space, and they are adding vibrancy and visible change to our Water Street buildings as we work on our larger redevelopment plan. Supporting the local “makers” movement is part of Gardiner Main Street’s transformational strategies, so it was a clear match.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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