WATERVILLE — U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Tim Scott approached a salesperson Friday at Day’s Jewelers on Main Street and asked her name.

“Think of more lemonade, but Mairead,” said the associate, Mairead Cross.

Collins and Scott also spoke with Day’s owner Jeff Corey, who commended Scott on sharing his story during the recent Republican convention. “My story is exactly the same as most everyone’s story if you go back one, two, three generations,” Scott told Corey. “The good news of life is, if you don’t stop, you win.”

As it turns out, Collins’ father went to high school with Corey’s mother in Aroostook County. Corey said he also utilized a federal Payroll Protection Program loan to help compensate employees at the company’s eight locations across Maine and New Hampshire.

“The real heroes are the salespeople in the store trying to sell jewelry with one of these on,” Corey said, as he pointed to his mask.

Collins, R-Maine, hosted Scott, R-S.C., for a tour of downtown Waterville on a drizzly and dark Friday afternoon.

Sen. Susan Collins waves to employees inside Holy Canoli’s on Main Street in Waterville on Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

While Friday’s visit was an official senatorial visit and not a campaign stop, Collins is up for reelection in about a month, facing off against Democrat Sara Gideon and independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn.

Collins and Scott started at the site of the new Bixby & Co. and stopped in Portland Pie Co., Day’s Jewelers, the Lockwood Hotel, Lockwood Mills and Hathaway Creative Center before departing downtown Waterville.

Kim Lindlof, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce president and CEO and executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council, and Colby College President David Greene also took part in the tour. Lindlof led the U.S. senators around the downtown.

“We’re excited Waterville’s on the move, and you can see the metamorphosis of the downtown,” she told the senators upon their arrival.

Greene spoke about Colby’s dedication to the city and the “focus on Maine in everything that we’re doing.”

Collins described Waterville as “a great city that had fallen on hard times” before Lindlof and others helped revitalize the downtown.

Collins and Scott consistently greeted owners and workers in businesses, even if some seemed a bit shy.

“I was trying to hide a little bit,” said Cross, the Day’s Jewelers associate who moved to Maine from Illinois in April. “My father was a part of the news business and I was on camera a lot and I didn’t like it.”

The Hathaway Creative Center and Lockwood Mills were revitalized after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which designated downtown Waterville as an “Opportunity Zone.” In December 2018, Collins helped Waterville’s successful pursuit of a $7.37 million BUILD Grant to change traffic patterns from one-way to two-ways, update sidewalks and landscaping and finish the RiverWalk at Head of Falls project.

The downtown Waterville grant was part of an overall $26.6 million award to Maine projects. Another $25 million is going toward restoring the Ticonic Bridge connecting Waterville and Winslow.

“Let me just say that I think this is so exciting,” Collins said. “I always thought of Waterville as the city of mills, and as you all know, over the years those mills closed, workers were displaced, manufacturing moved overseas. Now to see the combination of investment — it’s amazing from one end of Waterville to the other on the Main Street. We’re just seeing an enormous investment that will make such a difference.”

David Greene, president of Colby College, left center, speaks Friday with Sen. Susan Collins, center, and Sen. Tim Scott, right center, at the Hains Building on Main Street in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Collins also touted the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) bill she co-authored to help small businesses pay their workers during the coronavirus pandemic. According to Collins’ staff, in Maine 28,000 small businesses and self-employed citizens have received nearly $2.3 billion in forgivable loans, supporting more than 250,000 jobs across the state.

Portland Pie Co. owner Patrick Mulligan is one of the people who utilized the PPP loan. Collins and Mulligan spoke about a recent lunch she had at the local chain’s Windham location.

Mulligan told Collins business has “been super” and called the PPP “a huge help, especially in the beginning when we had no idea what was in front of us.”

As Waterville undergoes its renovations, little blips come up along the way, but they’re good for the long run.

“It’s slowed a little with road construction (on Main Street),” Mulligan told Collins, “but we need to do it for where we need to go.”

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