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The top business stories in the Caribou region for the first half of 2022

Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two articles highlighting some of the Caribou region’s top business stories from 2022. This article highlights events from January through June.

January

The Old Iron Inn Bed & Breakfast in Caribou celebrated 30 years with the publication of a new book, “Make Yourself at Home: Tales from a Maine B&B.” In the book, Innkeeper Kate McCartney shares stories from people she has encountered at the inn and some of the inn’s most requested recipes.

Jason and Jennifer Grass of Fort Fairfield expanded their business Hill Gardens with the production of Maine’s hottest pepper sauces. The company has 16 licensed sauces, with their hottest sauce being Phoenix Fire, measuring at 2.6 million Scoville units. The Scoville scale measures the heat of the chili peppers against pure capsaicin, which is 16 million Scoville units.

FORT FAIRLFIELD, Maine — January 17, 2022 — Jennifer and Jason Grass, owners and operators of Hill Gardens, standing with some of their hot sauces. (Courtesy of Jason Grass)

Aroostook Mental Health Center promoted Michelle Ferris to chief operating officer, replacing Jennette Hitchcock, who retired last year. Ferris joined AMHC in 2006 and worked primarily in emergency services. She first joined the leadership team as program director of emergency services for Aroostook, Hancock and Washington counties in 2019.

February

The Women’s Imaging Center at Cary Medical Center was awarded a three-year accreditation in mammography from the American College of Radiology. The accreditation applies to both 2D and 3D mammography using the MAM-MOMAT Revelation from Siemens Healthineers, a mammography system that Cary installed in September 2021, and recognizes that the system delivers quality care to women in need of mammography services.

Chris and Judy Richards, owners of The Par & Grill Restaurant in Caribou, celebrated 20 years of the restaurant’s opening. Chris Richards initially opened The Par & Grill in 2002 as a place for golf enthusiasts to practice their skills at an indoor simulation course, all while enjoying good food. Since then, the restaurant moved to its current location on Carroll Street and expanded to a full-service dining experience, famous for its American casual menu of steaks, burgers, sandwiches, salads and pizza.

The Caribou Kiwanis Club donated nutritious snacks to Caribou Community School to provide middle-schoolers with much-needed boosts of energy during school days. Club members also donated gloves, mittens and hats to students in the younger grades.

March

Loring Job Corps in Limestone celebrated its 25th anniversary of teaching students ages 16-24 job skills in various trades and technologies. Since opening in 1997, the Limestone center has served approximately 15,000 students, many of whom travel to Job Corps from different areas of Maine and the country. Current students praised Job Corps as an affordable and supportive way for them to gain skills in college, military or the workforce.

The Maine State Police presented a $5,000 check to Pink Aroostook, a Cary Medical Center program, as part of the Maine State Police and Maine State Troopers Foundation’s Pink Patch Initiative. The foundation sold pink-themed Maine State Police patches at $10 each during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October 2021. 

Lt. Brian Harris of the Maine State Police presents a $5,000 check to Pink Aroostook to help support their continued education and outreach efforts for breast cancer. Cindy Blanchette, RNC director of Pink Aroostook, accepts the donation. (Courtesy of Cary Medical Center)

University of Maine at Presque Isle professor of geology and Caribou resident Kevin McCartney embarked on his second Fulbright Program research trip, this time to India. While there, McCartney continued his nearly four decades of research in the field of micropaleontology. McCartney previously undertook a Fulbright research trip to Poland.

The Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for Bennett Drive Redemption in Caribou. The business celebrated its recent remodel, a result of the city’s facade improvement grant program. 

April

The County Federal Credit Union promoted Dennis Rogeski of Fort Fairfield to retail services manager for the branch’s northern region. In his new role, Rogeski oversees retail operations in the company’s northern branches of Aroostook County.

Gov. Janet Mills joined Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, and local veterans at Lister-Knowlton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9389 for a ceremonial signing of LD 2001, the law enabling Maine Veterans Homes in Caribou and Machias to remain open.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills and state legislators pose with staff from the Caribou Maine Veterans Home following a ceremonial signing of the bill that preserved the Caribou and Machias homes. The group gathered in Caribou at the Lister-Knowlton Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 9389. From left are: Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee; Melissa H. Graham, MVH-Caribou Administrator; Mills; Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, who proposed the bill; and MVH-Caribou staff.
(Courtesy of Sen. Troy Jackson’s Office)

Atlantic Salmon for Northern Maine announced plans to build a fish hatchery in Caribou, where several hundred baby salmon will be reared and later released in the Aroostook River. The facility will become part of larger efforts to revive Aroostook’s populations of Atlantic salmon.

May

The Limestone Rotary Club donated $2,558 to The Purple Ladle, a group of volunteers from the United Methodist Church and Age Friendly Limestone. The Purple Ladle’s 12 regular volunteers have delivered 17,435 meals to Limestone and Caswell residents since the pandemic began in 2020. The Rotary Club’s donation will go toward the purchase of a new commercial-style oven and cooking equipment for the church.

Rejuvenate Health & Med Spa celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its 24 Sweden St. location. Owner Jessica Rossignol was joined by the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce and family.

Deb Gorham, a nurse in Cary Medical Center’s One Day Surgery department, announced that she would travel to Poland to assist refugee families at the country’s border with Ukraine. Gorham worked with the organization Making a Difference in Uganda, which includes U.S. nurses who regularly volunteer in Uganda between traveling nurse assignments. 

June

Northstar Variety, one of only two convenience stores within the 40 miles of Route 161 between Caribou and Fort Kent, celebrated its 25 years in business. Over the years, owners Dave and Sarah Anderson have expanded from selling food and drinks to becoming an agency liquor store, the region’s only gift shop and a go-to spot for purchasing hunting and camping gear. 

Three designers from S.W. Collins in Caribou took home awards from the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s Maine chapter. Lisa Plourde was the grand prize winner in the Kitchen category and received first place in the Before and After Kitchen category. Cindy Dufour won second place in both the Before and After Kitchen and Large Kitchen categories. Barb Michaud took home second place in the Large Bathroom category.

The Caribou Rehab and Nursing Center announced one retirement and two promotions. Bonnie Cyr, RN, retired as director of nursing after working at the center for 37 years. Christine Raymond, RN, was recruited to replace Cyr after working as assistant director of nursing. Sherri Parker, RN, was promoted to assistant director of nursing.

Amid rising home sale prices, Limestone leaders hoped that the town’s cheaper housing stock would continue attracting residents. The town has dealt with a declining population since the closure of Loring Air Force Base and has searched for ways to welcome newcomers.

Thrive Body Spa owner Jen Anderson celebrated her new business with the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce and Caribou city leaders during a ribbon cutting. Thrive is located at 73 Sweden St.

Sarah and Dave Anderson have owned and operated Northstar Variety in New Sweden since 1998 and have made the store a hub for the local community. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

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