WATERVILLE — Anna Curtis did not let the coronavirus pandemic bring down her first business. In fact, the 21-year-old Waterville resident has just opened a second business.

Housed on the ground floor of the newly renovated, former Larsen’s Jewelry building at the corner of Main and Common streets, Elm City Nutrition and Energy opened Feb. 26.

The business is seeing plenty of foot traffic, according to Curtis, and there is already a fanbase of Colby College students who live next door at The Lockwood Hotel and up the street at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons.

The other day, a group of students came in and bought gift certificates for their residence hall staff.

“I’m excited about it, and I think they’re excited, too,” Curtis said.

Curtis also owns 201 Nutrition and Energy in Skowhegan, which opened a week or so before the pandemic hit last March. She said she is doing it all while a full-time student pursuing a degree in business at Husson University in Bangor.

A Winslow native and 2017 graduate of the town’s high school, Curtis took an interest in Herbalife Nutrition products, sugar-free energy teas and meal replacement shakes she sells while working at 207 Nutrition Waterville on Kennedy Memorial Drive.

She started college as a physical therapy major but soon realized it was not for her. Business became her calling, especially after she learned she could not join the U.S. Army because of a medical reason.

After Curtis had been working for a year at 207 Nutrition Waterville, owners Jesse LeBlanc or Brittany Coons offered to help her start her own business. She opened 201 Nutrition and Energy in Skowhegan “the day after everything shut down” with the onset of the pandemic last March, she said. “It was scary.”

But the business has flourished. Curtis has endured long hours throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but the grab-and-go nature of the tea and meal-replacement shake business has worked out well.

On Sunday, Anna Curtis was joined by her parents, Keith and Karen Curtis, in Waterville. They sometimes help out on weekends, but the businesses are truly their daughter’s.

Keith, an elevator mechanic, and Karen, who works in human resources at Waterville Pediatrics, said they are excited about Anna’s new location in Waterville.

“Downtown, you’re hoping to get foot traffic,” Keith said.

Waterville businessman Bill Mitchell owns the building. He also owns the building that houses Waterville Pediatrics, and the building where 207 Nutrition Waterville is housed.

The leased Elm City Nutrition and Energy storefront is 700 square feet. When Anna Curtis demonstrated a desire to open another store, Karen Curtis asked Mitchell where to open. He knew just the spot.

“Working at the 207 location, I know that sales were higher in Waterville than in Skowhegan,” Anna Curtis said. “So being on the other side of town, there’ll be more people.”

Anna Curtis said she benefits from her relationships with her former employers and other shops that sell Herbalife Nutrition products.

Businesses that sell Herbalife Nutrition are independent distributors of the products. To become a distributor, you must be recommended by a current one. Curtis was recommended by her former employers, and she has done the same for businesses coming in Oakland and Anson.

Along with Curtis’ two stores and 207 Nutrition Waterville, another similar shop has opened in Skowhegan and three in Augusta.

“They’re popping up everywhere,” said Curtis, who sometimes wears 207 Nutrition shirts in her stores. “And they wear mine, so everyone knows who we are and that we are all together.”

“There are no rivals between the stores,” Keith Curtis said.

In fact, the stores often exchange merchandise to keep shelves stocked.

Curtis has five part-time employees at her two locations — all high school students. Her parents come in and help on weekends, but the business is entirely Anna’s — while she also focuses on finishing her college degree.

“I do school work in the downtimes that I’m here,” Curtis said.

Owner Anna Curtis, 21, left, and her mother, Karen Curtis, prepare beverages Sunday for customers at newly opened Elm City Nutrition and Energy in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Curtis said consumer interest can fluctuate, but she is committed to her businesses. She hopes business continues to increase as more people in central Maine receive COVID-19 vaccinations, leading to fewer people with COVID-19.

“If it’s a fad, then it’s a fad, and I’m just going to find something else,” Curtis said. “If it sticks around, then I would love to do this forever.”

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