ELLSWORTH — After a long pandemic winter, spring is inching its way into Ellsworth’s downtown streets. Flowers may not yet be blooming apart from inside The Bud Connection, but merchants are betting on a booming business climate as Memorial Day nears.
By the time the traditional opening of the tourist season arrives, downtown will look a little different — and noticeably busier — thanks to several new businesses opening or relocating to downtown streets.
For many, an architectural anchor of Main Street is the Beals buildings that sat empty for months but are now the future homes of Poppy & Polka Dot Boutique and Kiddo by Toko. Both businesses are renovating the interiors, with Poppy & Polka Dot planning to move in toward the end of April. New business Kiddo by Toko will open later, depending on how long renovations take, owner Linda van der Does said.
Poppy & Polka Dot’s move will not leave another empty store in its place.
“Acadia Family Therapeutic Massage will be moving into our current space,” said Amanda Beals, who owns both the boutique and the building at 61 Main St. The massage business’s move won’t leave an empty storefront, either, as its current 210 Main St. location is home to several medical practices.
Also filling an empty Main Street space is Ghost Rose Tattoo. Owner and tattoo artist Jaime Lynn Parent signed a lease last week at 112 Main St., next to Provender’s, and hopes to open by May.
“It was a perfect opportunity,” Parent said. “Tattooing is something that is a sustainable business now, there’s a huge demand for it.” She added she was happy to have a home for her business “in the heart of Ellsworth, to create and give back to the community I’ve been born and raised in.”
Ellsworth Economic Development Director Janna Richards said that several dynamics are behind the “recent flurry of new activity in the downtown.” Some of the new investment can be attributed to the success of established businesses that “are now looking to up their game by expanding and diversifying their services in our community,” while at the same time there is “a changing of the guard on Main Street,” as long-established property and business owners retire.
Kiddo by Toko is a prime example, as Hans and Linda van der Does found success with Toko Ellsworth, which opened on Main Street in 2019, prompting plans for the second downtown Ellsworth store. The same is true for Poppy & Polka Dot, which opened early in 2020 and is ready to expand into a space at least double its current size.
Around the corner on Franklin Street, Downeast Keto Bakery has leased and is renovating a vacant store. Owner Carolyn Corro said she cannot keep up with demands for her bread, bagels, muffins, whoopie pies and assorted keto snacks from her state-licensed home kitchen.
“If I don’t expand, I’m just going to be stuck where I’m at,” she said. “I can’t produce any more than I’m producing now.” She plans to open as a retail store in May and eventually add café seating.
Despite economic worries surrounding the pandemic, Richards said “the city remains well positioned post-COVID as a growing retail/service center and employment hub.” In addition, she said new businesses seeking to capitalize on the Ellsworth location is “a strong vote of confidence in the downtown and Ellsworth.”
With High Street as a major business sector, changes are not limited to downtown. The former Windsor Chairmakers furniture store that anchors Main Street at its High Street intersection has been purchased by a Florida LLC. The space will be leased to another business through the Acadia Realty Group, broker/owner Steve Shelton said.
And farther up on High Street, Ellsworth Nutrition, a tea-and-smoothie shop, opened on April 7 at 270 High St. in the H&R Block building.
Richards credits the local business community “for their ability to adapt, pivot and innovate in order to continue to stream revenue into their businesses while also adhering to new guidelines.” And, with the guidelines relaxing more each month and vaccinations lifting some pandemic fears, Ellsworth stands poised to capitalize this year on its status as the crossroads of Downeast Maine.