The top business stories for second half of 2022 in southern Aroostook

1 year ago

Editor’s Note: The following is the second of two articles highlighting some of the top business stories from 2022. This article highlights events from July to December.


The American Flag was flying proudly in downtown Houlton, thanks to a group of volunteers and a local business. Tim McAfee, CEO of Pioneer Broadband in Houlton, spearheaded a volunteer effort to acquire enough flags on short notice and place them around the town. As a veteran, McAfee said the notion of Houlton not having flags for the Fourth of July was inconceivable.

Downtown Houlton was the place to be for all those with a sweet tooth thanks to the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce. The chamber held its annual Strawberry Shortcake Sale in Market Square. A major fundraiser for the chamber, the popular event did not disappoint again this year. Roughly 480 servings were sold during the event.

ISLAND FALLS, Maine — August 5, 2022 — A horse-drawn carriage and antique hearse are among the many attractions found at the Rest In Peace Museum in Island Falls. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)


The Rest In Peace Museum officially opened its doors at 56 Sherman St. in the former home of Bowers Funeral Home in Island Falls. The museum, documenting the history of morticians and funeral techniques used over the past 100 years, is believed to be the first of its kind in the state and perhaps one of only a handful in the entire country. It is owned and operated by Tony Bowers, a fourth-generation mortician in southern Aroostook County.

One of two skilled nursing facilities for elderly people in the Houlton area is closing its doors, citing a shortage of nurses. Gardiner Health Care Facility announced it would close its 38-bed nursing unit. Once the nursing wing has fully closed, the facility will expand its residential care unit from 10 beds to 40, with more private rooms.

Land that was once fertile soil for an area potato farmer generations ago is again producing crops. The Houlton Regional Hospital unveiled its community garden, marking the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of planning.

NEW LIMERICK, Maine — August 31, 2022 — Louisiana Pacific Houlton celebrated the opening of its new $150 million production expansion at its New Limerick facility Wednesday afternoon with a special ceremony. Pressing the button to restart the mill are, from left, U.S. Sen Susan Collins, LP CEO Brad Southern and Maine Governor Janet Mills. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)


For decades, the Maine Visitor Information Center was just off Interstate 95 in Houlton, where it provided tourists a wealth of information on happenings around the state. This summer, though, the Maine Office of Tourism relocated the Visitor Information Center to downtown Houlton inside a private business — the County Co-op and Farm Store at 53 Main St. — about a mile from I-95 because the town sold the Ludlow Road property.

Citing the strong work ethic of local people, Louisiana-Pacific officials decided that Aroostook County was a natural location for its plant to make a new signature line of products. LP Houlton officials unveiled its $150 million renovation to its plant for a group of business leaders, as well as U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Gov. Janet Mills.

Lori Spaulding, owner of Handlebar Saloon in downtown Houlton, pours a beverage for a customer Thursday during lunch. The self-proclaimed “biker bar” is the newest eatery in Houlton’s Market Square. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)


A motel on the outskirts of Houlton was being transformed into a Native American paradise. Spurred by the need for temporary housing brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians purchased the former StarDust Motel in late 2021. One year later, the tribe had plans in place to convert the motel at 672 North St. into temporary emergency housing for tribal members, as well as a money-making venture.

A well known automotive repair business in Houlton was under new ownership, but its former owner is still likely to be found helping out in the shop. Jason Fitzpatrick and Jason Clayton have acquired Cyr and Sons Repair, at 7 Sugarloaf St., from owner Brent Cyr. The two served as mechanics at the shop for the past year, before venturing into ownership.

A Bancroft couple took their love of all things motorcycles and turned it into downtown Houlton’s newest dining destination. And it may just be Aroostook County’s first, and only, biker bar. Located at 23 Market Square, the Handlebar Saloon leans heavily into motorcycle memorabilia — including everything from leather jackets and helmets to motorcycle tanks mounted on the wall.

Cara Weaver has opened Cooks on Main, a new kitchen and pantry outfitter located at 59 Main St. in downtown Houlton. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times


Prospective new drivers in southern Aroostook County had a local alternative for obtaining their learner’s permits. Baldwin’s Driving Academy of Presque Isle expanded to Houlton, offering a series of classes and local driving options for students.

Faced with an ever-changing dynamic, Houlton was exploring ways it could improve not only its historic downtown, but also the overall business climate of the community. Officials with the Maine Downtown Center, as well as the National Main Street Center, were in Houlton to provide precisely that assistance.

Cara Weaver opened Cooks on Main, a kitchen and pantry outfitter, as a way to escape a grueling travel schedule that saw her traverse around the state selling her handcrafted items. After years of selling her wares statewide, Weaver knew local people had no options for kitchen supplies. Seeing that need in her hometown of Houlton provided just the right amount of motivation for her to open up a permanent storefront, while continuing to work with a line of products she knows.

The Elm Tree Diner was under new ownership. Synonymous with great service and fine food for seven decades, serving people from both sides of the United States-Canada border, the Houlton eatery was widely known for its delicious foods. Wendy and Wayne Shaw purchased the restaurant, with plans to reopen later in December.

A Houlton entrepreneur who saw COVID-19 bring about a crippling end to his bowling alley business found new opportunities arise with a general store — including the only gas station in a 40-mile stretch of road. Geno and Laura Seiders expanded Seiders Variety and Sporting Goods at his store on the Houlton-Hodgdon town line.

Katie Sloat holds Buster, the unofficial mascot of Serendipitous Dragonfly in Houlton. Sloat took over the family business two years ago from her parents and has steadily grown it into one of Houlton’s destinations for shoppers.
(Staff photo/Joseph Cyr)


As the only pet store north of Bangor, Serendipitous Dragonfly owner Katie Sloat knew she had a large customer base to serve. Sloat’s parents Jean and Richard Sloat operated Jean’s Serendipity for decades, before deciding to shift their focus to a growing wine business. Faced with the idea that her family’s legacy could be coming to an end, Katie Sloat said she knew she had to take over the family business.

It had been a difficult few years for the Putnam House Senior Center, but an influx of volunteers hoped to bring the group to new heights. Victoria Fryer was selected as the president, with Roberta Bouchard serving as vice president. Jo Holmes was selected as treasurer and Bonnie Reynolds is the new secretary.

When it came to providing outstanding care to its patients, the Houlton Regional Hospital was viewed as one of the best in the business. For the second year in a row, the hospital was named by The Leapfrog Group as one of the nation’s “Top Rural Hospitals.”