The top business stories of 2021 in the Caribou area
Editor’s Note: The following article highlights some of the top business stories in the Caribou region from 2021.
Compiled by Melissa Lizotte
Cary Medical Center was recognized with an A for the fall 2020 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, a national distinction recognizing the hospital’s achievements in protecting patients from harm and providing safer health care. This year marked the fifth time that Cary achieved the highest grade and joins only five Maine hospitals in accomplishing that high rank.
Limestone Country Club celebrated its recent expansion with a ribbon cutting on Jan. 6. New owner 4Birdies LLC – consisting of CEO/COO Bradlee Boyles, his wife Erica Boyles, and business partners Mark Bailey and Natasha Brewer – announced their hopes of making golf more accessible to women and children and expanding the club to include a restaurant with activities like darts and arcade games.
Aroostook Mental Health Services became the local provider for StrengthenME, the state’s behavioral health and resiliency response to COVID-19, for Aroostook, Washington and Hancock counties. StrengthenME provides free stress management, wellness and resiliency resources. Community health workers are available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. by contacting the statewide support number at (207) 221-8198 or (866) 367-4588 or the local number at (207) 762-4851.
Katahdin Trust Company donated what would have been their $5,000 sponsorship of the Cary Classic Benefit Golf Tournament to the Jefferson Cary Foundation’s endowment fund. The gift enabled the bank to place a stone on the foundation’s Tree of Life in the lobby at Cary Medical Center.
The Center for Integrated Rehab, a program of Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc., was reissued a three-year accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. CARF is an independent, nonprofit accreditation group of health and human services.
Cary Medical Center announced the passing of longtime vascular/thoracic surgeon Pedro “Pete” Simon of complications from Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, a rare blood disease. Originally from the Philippines, Simon came to Caribou in 1972 and brought many new and complex surgical procedures to the hospital. Simon died on Jan. 23 at 82 years old.
The Caribou and Presque Isle Inn and Convention Centers lost longtime owner Kevin Simmons to his long battle with cancer on Jan. 16. Shortly after his death Betty Hersey, manager of the Caribou and Presque Isle inns, recalled Simmons’ arrival in Aroostook County at age 28 and his commitment to building relationships with hotel guests and staff.
The Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce presented Beaulieu’s Garage and Body Shop with its Customer Service Award. Dottie McDuffy nominated the business in honor of their offering free rides every New Year’s Eve since 1988.
Searra Herbert of Caribou, a third-year business management major at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, received a $1,000 scholarship from the Maine Higher Education Assistance Foundation.
Northern Light AR Gould Hospital celebrated the opening of its new Walk-In Care on Bennett Drive with a ribbon cutting alongside Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce officials.
Greyson Orne, a junior at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, was named as one of two student members of the Maine Board of Education. Apart from voting, Orne has all the privileges of the nine adult board members. Student members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Maine State Senate. Orne is the first MSSM student to join the Maine Board of Education.
Gov. Janet Mills nominated Woodland native Sarah LeClaire to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. Prior to working as a private attorney for more than two decades, LeClaire served as a staff attorney at Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
Business owner Dustin Mancos opened B-52 Pizza & Subs in Limestone. The restaurant’s design and menu items pay tribute to Limestone’s former Loring Air Force Base.
More than 300 people registered for Cary Medical Center’s 100 Miles in 100 Days Fitness Challenge, which began April 1. The goal of the challenge is to get people to walk 100 miles in 100 days and track their progress to win prizes.
The Limestone Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce recognized Main Street Outlet and County Lock & Key as two of the town’s newest businesses. Main Street Outlet, owned by Pat and Mike Cyr, specializes in clothing but also offers items such as children’s toys, candies and cookware. County Lock & Key, owned by Steven Gaudette, specializes in lock-related services for automobiles, boats, planes, RVs, buses, commercial businesses and houses.
Northern Maine Community College purchased a new premium Hunter Hawkeye auto lift with adjoining alignment system for its automotive technology program. Students will begin using the auto lift during the fall 2021 semester.
Aroostook County Action Program received a $1.58 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homeless Youth Program. The organization will create a new Housing Stability program to provide homeless youth throughout The County with housing vouchers to affordable apartment units.
Nurses at Cary Medical Center received a special gift from RSU 39 students in honor of National Nurses Week (May 6-12). Students designed an image featuring a Viking, in honor of the school’s mascot, and placed the image on a badge clip for nurses to wear.
Matthew Grillo was named dean of students at Northern Maine Community College after serving 10 years as dean of students at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone. Originally from Garland, Grillo first arrived in Aroostook in 1998 to attend the University of Maine at Presque Isle. In a statement, Grillo credited NMCC’s focus on trade and technical fields and workforce development as reasons why he applied for the position of dean.
Northern Ninja Quest Center, a martial arts dojo for children and adults, relocated from Fort Street to Sweden Street. Although officially reopened in the new location since October 2020, final construction was completed just before summer 2021. Owners Bill Fuller and Ben Goodwin were hopeful that the new location and decreased COVID-19 restrictions would attract more students.
For the fourth year, Micmac Farms partnered with Maine’s Soil & Water Conservation District to stock brook trout in landowners’ private ponds. The team was able to raise 40,000 fish for the spring trout sales. The partnership allows landowners the opportunity to raise their own food and supports catch-and-release fishing practices among native brook trout populations.
Thanks to the Caribou City Council’s recent alteration to the city’s land use code, business owner Troy Haney announced plans to open a campground east of Limestone Street. The plot of land near Aroostook River will have spots for nine campers and will be named after Haney’s stepdaughter, Kacie, who died in a car crash last year.
NorStar Appliance, owned by Frank Beal and Adam Peckham, opened on Main Street in Limestone. NorStar specializes in sales and repairs of appliances such as washing machines, dryers, microwaves, toaster ovens and TVs.
The Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for Luke’s Small Engine Shop, located on 369 Van Buren Rd.
During their annual meeting on June 30, the Caribou Rotary Club presented their Service Above Self Award to Robert Sprague and Curtis Richards. Sprague first joined Rotary as an honorary member, having been recognized for his years of service to the high school’s Nordic Ski program. He has served as club secretary, chair of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program and coordinated volunteers for the Caribou Soup Kitchen. Richards has volunteered for 16 years, maintaining the ski and snowshoe trails at Caribou High School. He has served as assistant coach for the high school ski team when needed as well as coach of the Caribou Community School ski team. Rotary also named Hugh Kirkpatrick as the incoming club president.
Hilltop Heights Senior Living, located at the former site of Hilltop Elementary School, officially began accepting tenants after months of COVID-related delays. Hilltop Heights features 38 apartment units, which all contain one bedroom but vary in size depending on the health and safety needs of tenants. Units are open to tenants ages 62 and older.
Dr. Samuela Manages, family practice physician for Pines Health Services’ St. John Valley Health Center, was recertified in family medicine by the American Board of Family Medicine.
The Saturn of the Maine Solar System Model received a facelift thanks to workers at Beaulieu’s Garage. Workers sanded and repainted the planet’s surface and installed a new fiberglass cover. The Saturn planet model is part of the largest scale model of the solar system in the Western Hemisphere, and the second largest model in the world.
Versant Power awarded $20,000 to Aroostook Agency on Aging to support the organization’s efforts to decrease isolation for older adults. The funds will go toward the purchase of iPads, which senior citizens will use to attend online classes and access wellness services.
John Morrill, maintenance director for the Caribou Rehab & Nursing Center, retired after 43 years at the facility. A native of Van Buren, Morrill was first hired in 1978 and became well known among his colleagues for his commitment in responding to the facility’s needs, regardless of the time of day or week.
Many Caribou area organizations received grants from the Aroostook County Committee of the Maine Community Foundation. Limestone Development Foundation was awarded $10,000 and $3,000, respectively, for town revitalization projects; the Halfway Home Pet Rescue $5,000 for storage warehouse repairs; the Jefferson Cary Foundation $2,980 to establish a volunteer ride service for isolated senior citizens; and the Maine School of Science and Mathematics $1,000 to aid in the search for a development and outreach leader for their foundation.
The Aroostook Agency on Aging was chosen as the benefiting nonprofit for Hannaford’s Bloomin’ for Good Program for September. Every $12 Bloomin’ for Good bouquet sold will benefit the Agency’s programs for senior citizens.
The Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting at Logan’s Service and Repair, located at 17 Cheney Grove Road in Fort Fairfield.
Limestone Rotary presented its annual Service Above Self awards to Andy and Rea Caldwell of Limestone, Nancy Martin of Caswell, Robbie Caldwell of Limestone and Randy Brooker of Limestone.
Halfway Home Pet Rescue in Caribou received $10,000 from the Maine Community Foundation and $42,000 from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation to continue providing spay and neutering clinics for cats.
Dr. John Armstrong joined the Pines Health Services team as a family practice provider at the Caribou Health Center, located at 74 Access Highway.
Caribou employees of KeyBank spent the day on Sept. 14 painting street fences near the post office on Sweden Street and street light posts on Herschel Street. The project was part of KeyBank’s annual Neighbors Make A Difference Day.
Caribou second-grader Laynee Kirby teamed up with the high school’s Jobs for Maine Graduates students to design a business that will offer donated shoes to children in need. Students in Jessica Goodwin’s digital media class cut and designed wooden hearts that will accompany each pair of shoes, bearing the phrase “Laced with Love by Laynee.”
The Caribou Men’s Recovery House received a new ramp courtesy of the Maine Accessibility Corporation. The ramp is intended to make substance use disorder recovery services more accessible to men who have disabilities.
The Caribou Housing Authority announced that a participant in its Family Self-Sufficiency Program has graduated. The person, whose name was not released, earned more than $20,000 while working part time at a local restaurant to help meet future financial goals. Participants in the FSS program are able to increase their earned income and reduce their dependence on welfare assistance and rental subsidies over a period of five years. Common goals of participants have included buying a home and becoming debt free.
Northern Maine Community College’s computer numerical control certification program was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Gene Haas Foundation to provide scholarships for eligible students over the next two years.
Caribou native Brooke DeMerchant placed third at the inaugural LinkedIn competition hosted by Nichols College on Nov. 3. The competition was created to allow students to showcase their online profiles, improve their personal branding skills and receive feedback from judges.
Cary Medical Center was named one of the 2021 Best Places to Work in Maine by the Society for Human Resources Management. In November, the hospital also achieved platinum level recognition from the 2021 Gold Star Standards of Excellence Program for tobacco use prevention measures. Registered nurse Stephanie Gagnon received a $750 Reuben and Annette Cote Family Memorial Scholarship to continue her nursing education.
The city of Caribou celebrated Small Business Saturday with its fifth annual ornament hunt, featuring two ornament collections. Participants picked up their chosen ornaments while shopping at a list of 15 businesses as well as Caribou Public Library. Business owners and local shoppers expressed the importance of supporting small businesses, especially amid online shopping trends and a global pandemic.
The Limestone Chamber of Commerce honored Patricia and Larry Zenzius of Caswell as the 2021 Citizens of the Year. The couple was recognized for their many volunteer hours spent on behalf of local events and organizations, including Limestone Rotary, Trunk or Treat and the Fourth of July celebration.
Caribou’s first recovery house for women opened on Dec. 2. Inspiring Hope Haven for Women will house up to six women at a time, all of whom will access local recovery and workforce services.
Loring Job Corps honored its first employee to reach 25 years of service. Herman Gaskins joined Loring in 1996 and has since worked in the transportation department. Prior to joining Loring, he served 21 years in the United States Air Force, beginning in 1966 and retiring in 1987.
Many Caribou businesses, including Brambleberry Market, Noyes Flower & Plant Shoppe and Monica’s Scandinavian Imports, reported increased foot traffic and sales this holiday season over that of 2020. Business owners at all three stores cited customers’ increased appetite for shopping in person and supporting small businesses.
A new 20-acre, $7 million solar farm operated by Caribou Solar Power, LLC and Versant Power was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting on Dec. 16. The 4.875-megawatt installation has 15,586 solar panels and will produce approximately 8,006,000 kilowatt hours of power.
Cary Medical Center was named one of America’s Best Hospitals for both emergency care and obstetrics by the Women’s Choice Award, a health care referral source. The award places the hospital in the top 6 percent of 4,728 U.S. hospitals offering emergency care and the top 3 percent of hospitals offering obstetrics.