Name: Leon Emery

Age: 61

Title: Owner and assistant to company CEO Denise Emery

Company: Emery’s Meat & Produce, Gardiner

About: A family-owned store selling a variety of meats sourced from farms in Maine.



What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Expanding. (Plans are underway to open a store in Brewer.) That’s our biggest challenge. With the expanding, part of that challenge is hiring help. That’s huge — finding qualified help. We have in place right now at Thomas College a training program. That helps tremendously. (We have) a young man who is part of the apprenticeship program. It’s funded by the Harold Alfond Fund at Thomas College through a grant program. They pay a major portion of his wages to train him in a profession. Because he’s a college student in a business course, the goal is to train him so he could open his own store or take over one of our stores. So that’s what it’s all about. It’s a huge impact to central Maine because they are doing a lot of businesses in the area.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

The best advice probably business-wise came from my accountant, who said I should act less impulsively and take a little more time planning rather than jumping into expansion. So out of that came Thomas College, also came with Coastal Enterprises Inc. (which provides business financing) working hand-in-hand with our accountant. And it was great advice, because now as we expand, all the numbers make sense, rather than me saying, “I want a store in Brewer.” My accountant is Patty Flagg, right here in Gardiner.

What do you do to foster creativity in yourself or your staff?

We do an old-fashioned approach, I think. It’s family-oriented. We are a very small, family-oriented business. So we take our help under our wing as part of our family. All of our help has the ability to take an afternoon off if a child is sick or take them to the hospital, or reschedule or swap schedules. We fish together. We barbecue together. And we work together. I think that type of atmosphere gives them incentive to really do a good job here and give back to the company. It fosters a huge amount, sometimes even better than the financial. The other side of the coin is that they see me taking out the rubbish at the end of the day. Some days, not every day, but some days. They are on the same level and the same playing field as we are.


We just hired a lady that worked at another company and was making $10 an hour. She asked if we could pay that to start, and I said no. I said, “Everybody here makes way more than that. You start at $12.50 and you give me 60 days to evaluate where you are.” She said, “Are you kidding me? I worked for that company for four years, and I am only making $10.” I told her that’s not going to happen here because we are going to make it work.

We do that type of incentive. And make them feel a major part of the company.

What’s your biggest fear?

That I don’t catch fish when I go up north tomorrow.

My biggest fear is that if something should happen to me that the company won’t continue to go forward the same way I’ve laid it out. My legacy is having Emery’s Meat & Produce live forever. I know I am not going to. I think we’re addressing that fear by working with Coastal Enterprises to transition this company over to an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan). That’s what we’re working on because inevitably we’re going to move on, and so I want these people to be well taken care of should something happen to me. So my biggest fear is that something happens to me before we get that put in place and then Emery’s Meat & Produce disappears.

Where will your business be in five years?


I see us having a total of four stores. There’s Gardiner. We actually moved our Newport store to Waterville, because we saw what Colby College was doing, and Main Street Waterville, and we saw everything Thomas College is involved in Waterville was doing, and even Kennebec Valley Community College is doing. They are all working on the area, as far as developing the area, bringing business in here, bringing tourism in here, taking care of our kids and keeping them working at home. That’s huge.

So we moved Newport, which was a break-even store to Waterville. We’ve been there a year and a half, and we’re already on the positive side. It’s already paid for, and it’s making money and doing very well.

Brewer is opening Oct. 1.

Then we’re going to look at Brunswick or down that way. Probably not Portland, but Brunswick or even Falmouth or maybe in that area south of here. It’s a nice spread.

We’ve actually been working with farms to develop cattle to support these. We work hand-in-hand with Maple Lane Farms up in Charleston, and he actually has increased his herd tremendously to take care of these stores.

It’s a boost of the local economy that’s huge. It’s a ripple effect that now the farmer is sustainable. We’ve got meat cutters that are sustainable and we’ve got slaughterhouses that are sustainable, and the consumer benefits profusely because we are raising a better product that we can get in other places.

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