GARDINER — Exemplifying the spirit of shopping small on Small Business Saturday, Gardiner has grown more popular and less small with the addition of several storefronts on Main Street over the past year.

Gardiner kicked off the day with the launch of downtown’s Winter Market, which will run on weekends through Christmas Eve in the space of the former Gardiner Food Co-Op. The launch was perfect timing with Small Business Saturday, which is traditionally celebrated the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Much as Black Friday encourages people to shop retail, Small Business Saturday encourages the community to shop at small, local businesses.

Gardiner has seen a number of locally owned stores pop up over the past year, including Stone Broke Bread & Books, Pistil & Page and Selene’s Fly Shop, which all reported having great success on Gardiner’s Main Street in their first year and chose to set up in Gardiner for the potential they see within the city.

Most of their predictions were right — on Saturday, the downtown stores were flooded with shoppers, described by Selene Frohmberg of Selene’s Fly Shop as “triple” the amount of traffic typically seen on a regular weekend on Gardiner’s Main Street.

Main Street is a bustle of activity during Small Business Saturday in Waterville. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

The same holiday spirit continued in Waterville, as residents and visitors picked out their festive favorites from among the 38 local businesses that were participating in Shop Small Saturday. An annual event hosted by the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is deemed special in Waterville.

“I’ve always felt supported as a small business owner,” said Ames Cyrway, the owner of The Framemakers, a small business based on Waterville’s Main Street. Cyrway, who has been in the business for almost 10 years, said the way people respond to local businesses has shifted in that time. “The mentality to shop small has been there with a lot of people, especially post-pandemic,” Cyrway said.


For Cyrway, the support from the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce has been very rewarding. “They have always been great and very supportive of local businesses,” said Cyrway.

The same outlook was expressed by Malcolm Porter, the co-owner of the downtown candy store, Incense and Peppermint. For Porter, the holiday season is all about supporting local businesses. “Local businesses help the local economy, and that’s why they should be supported,” Porter said.

Rachael M Rollson adjusts loaves on display Saturday in her shop, Stone Broke Bread & Books, on Water Street in downtown Gardiner. The store at the corner of Water and Bridge streets was celebrating its first anniversary during Small Business Saturday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Back in Gardiner, the grand opening of the Winter Market was only one of the happenings for Small Business Saturday, as Stone Broke Bread & Books celebrated the bakery and small press bookstore’s one-year anniversary.

Owners Rachael M Rollson and Joshua Rollson looked to open their shop in Gardiner for years but couldn’t find a spot that fit their need for a commercial kitchen. When a spot on the corner of Main Street next to the A1 Diner opened, it was perfect. The bakery offers a subscription-based bread service in addition to an array of fresh bread available in-store. M Rollson said their subscription-based service is almost at capacity, with 70 subscribers and five spots left.

“There is a lot of potential (in Gardiner),” said M Rollson. “It’s super cute, it’s on a beautiful river front, the (Johnson) Theater is coming back — there is a resurgence coming and we could feel the potential, so we waited.”

Other new businesses mentioned Gardiner’s location as the main reason they chose to set up shop there, such as Selene’s Fly Fishing, a spot owned by Frohmberg, who is known to the fly-fishing community as “Selene of Maine.” She chose to open her store in Gardiner for the city’s close proximity to Cobbosseecontee Lake, the Kennebec River and other various bodies of water to fly-fish in. She noted on Saturday that a steady stream of people made their way in to her store.


Brightly colored fly tying supplies seen Saturday in Selene’s Fly Tying Shop on Water Street in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Her shop opened a year ago, but just took on a new space across from Johnson Hall and offers tools for fly-fishing enthusiasts, educational opportunities, and a local Maine guide who customers can hire for their fly-fishing trips for tips and tricks. Her shop won third place, behind L.L.Bean and Dick’s Sporting Goods, in the Central Maine Reader’s Choice Awards.

“It (reminds) me of when the Portland Old Port had its boom,” she said. “Gardiner is in it’s blossoming state, right before Johnson Hall is going to open and we are ready to come into the full bloom. All of the businesses are ready for that — it’s an exciting time for downtown Gardiner.”

Alex Smith opened her unique plant and home decoration store, Pistil & Page, in April, and sees customers from Belfast, Skowhegan and Portland.

On Saturday, people were in and out of the store all morning, fixating on the air plants and Christmas ornaments of various foods for sale.

“I lived down in Portland, so I have somewhat of a network and friends that come, but (customers) feel really local and sometimes they will come as a weekend away from Belfast, or Skowhegan,” Smith said. “I think being a little junction brings people in from all over.”

Andrea Giese and Hailey Palleschi decided to stop in Gardiner after a wreath-making class at Chadwick’s Spirits in Pittston, and were pleased with the stores Gardiner has to offer. The pair decided to spend the rest of their day shopping before heading home to Boston.


“It’s so cute,” Giese said of Gardiner’s Main Street. “It’s very easy for me to be pleased with this historical architecture.”

The Winter Market is seen reflected in a round mirror Saturday on Water Street in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Tamara Whitmore, the executive director of the nonprofit Gardiner Main Street, believes seven or eight new businesses moved to Main Street over the past year. Several other food-related stores opened, including Bintliff’s Corner Brew, Goldfinch Creamery Cafe, Table Bar and Scrummy Afters Candy Shoppe, which relocated from Hallowell.

“We see people moving to Gardiner from Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, and then they’re bringing people to see this part of the community,” said Whitmore. “I think people see opportunity here.”

For the Winter Market, Gardiner Main Street received a grant of $60,000 from the Maine Downtown Center to pay for the rent where the market is set up.

The Winter Market will run on weekends through Dec. 24 with five local businesses — Meadowsweet Bakery & Kitchen, Out of My Head Designs, Pickle’s Potions, Ledgeway and 5Beads Handmade.

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