HOULTON, Maine — After a five-month, three-phase process, Volumes Book Store has emerged as winner of the inaugural Houlton Entrepreneur Challenge. Volumes, which is the only book store north of Bangor and also includes a gift shop, will receive a prize package of more than $10,000 which includes a $7,500 forgivable loan and incentives from program partners totaling more than $2,500.

Proprietor Gerry Berthelette has owned the store for 18 of its more than 25 years of operation and has seen it through three locations. The store at 75 Bangor St. sells used and new books, collectible books and remainders, large print and audio books as well as gift items and Maine souvenirs.

His proposal for the Entrepreneur Challenge called for expanding the store into the adjacent building at 73 Bangor St. to provide extra display space, a fourth browsing room, a reading area and a venue for speakers and author presentations. Additional space also is expected to be available in the new building for rent to another entity.

“I’m shocked and excited,” Berthelette said, adding that he was looking forward to moving ahead with the expansion.

Volumes draws customers from throughout Aroostook County as well as shoppers from Washington and Penobscot counties and several from New Brunswick and other Maritime provinces.

“This draw into the region for the unique products available at Volumes has a definite spin-off effect for other Houlton businesses,” said Nancy Ketch, Houlton community development director.

“People traveling that far to shop are sure to have other needs such as gas, food and additional shopping,” added SADC Executive Director Jon McLaughlin.

The Houlton Entrepreneur Challenge was a collaborative effort of the town of Houlton and the Southern Aroostook Development Corporation with major financial support from Machias Savings Bank. Several other local businesses and organizations also supported the contest with funds, prizes and services.

According to Ketch, the program was designed to be an innovative approach to business recruitment and retention. It was a way to assist a new or expanding business with expenses while also providing basic business knowledge and guidance in developing a business plan. The winner was selected from six entries.

THe local contest was based on similar efforts to attract business in Gardiner, Biddeford, Skowhegan and Grey and New Gloucester.

Plans already are in the works to run the challenge again in Houlton. An announcement with dates and guidelines for the second round is expected to be made in the spring.

More information is available on the town’s web site at www.houlton-maine.com or SADC’s web site at www.sadcaroostook.org. Information also is available by calling Ketch at 207-521-5938 or McLaughlin at 207-521- 0157.