Goodwill's thrift stores may boast on TV about having the "little black dress every woman wants," but St. Martin's Thrift Store in Millinocket topped that last week when it received a Calvin Cline designer outfit originally owned and worn by Maine's Senator, Susan M. Collins.
Sen. Collins donated her high fashion, two-piece red suit to St. Martin's Thrift Store when she toured the 112 Maine Ave. facility on Feb. 24 at the invitation of the store's volunteers.
Within a half hour of Sen. Collins' departure from the store, the suit had sold and the buyer left a nice donation in appreciation for being able to buy the attractive, high end suit that was "...worn only twice," Sen. Collins explained. "It just didn't fit quite right," she declared as she handed off the donation to the store's business manager, Jayne Jones.
Sen. Collins, accompanied by her aide Deidre Grant and her Maine State Office Representative Philip R. Bosse and trailed by cameramen from TV Ch. 2 and TV Ch. 5, spent nearly an hour touring the facility. There she learned about: the origin of the store 25 years ago; the purpose for which the thrift store exists; how volunteers, working together, have made the store a success; and how the store and the volunteers continually strive to find better ways to display merchandise and to serve customers.
Sen. Collins also expressed appreciation for the store's well known financial support of the non-denominational and ecumenical St. Martin's Food Pantry and Emergency Fuel Fund. She also said she was amazed by how extensive the store's offerings are throughout its two floor, nine-room facility.
"I told my staff I really wanted to do this (visit the store)," Sen. Collins explained. The visit to the area, she said, was important because she is keenly aware of how many local retail businesses have closed as the area continues to suffer through its economic downturn.
"It's like a department store," Sen. Collins said as she commented on the operation. "...this is incredible, amazing...just lovely," she declared as she expressed surprise at the volume of offerings and how well organized the store is. "I had no idea I'd see such an extraordinary store," she said.
"This (the store and volunteers) is a great example of the community pulling together," Sen. Collins said and added, "It's an asset to the community and a tribute to the volunteers." The store gives people a place to shop as well as benefits the people who need food and fuel, she said.
During the tour Sen. Collins expressed "cautious optimism" that the local paper mills will be purchased and reopened, but acknowledged there is much uncertainty surrounding those events. "I hope to see it happen," Sen. Collins said about the purchase of the mills. She acknowledged there probably would be a gap between when the mills close and reopen, all of which would impact the mill's customer base. "I hope the downturn is short," Sen. Collins said of the period between the closing and the purchase.
"The people of the region have gone through so much - I hope the purchase brings stability (to the region)," she said. She acknowledged there are challenges involved with the purchase, such as the installation of a biomass boiler which would wean the mills away from expensive oil. There are, she pointed out, federal tax credits that could help as well as possible state assistance. She was sure other funding sources and tax incentives would receive close scrutiny.
Sen. Collins was referencing the effort by Merturn Partners LLC to purchase the former Great Northern East Millinocket and Millinocket paper mills and the recent closure notice filed by the current owners.