PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Snowflakes are glistening in store windows, shelves are brimming with merchandise and businesses are humming with customers.
After COVID-19 threw the shopping season into chaos last year — when stores had to alter how they did business or close entirely — merchants in Aroostook County’s economic hub said they feel prepared for 2021, whether it’s musical instruments or Maine-made brews.
Several Presque Isle business owners have been reporting higher sales, even though the pandemic is still a factor. With supply lines around the world in disarray, businesses hope to capitalize on residents shopping locally this holiday season.
Businesses like Merchants on the Corner and Country Collectibles have circumvented large supply chains by stocking up on products that are made in Maine.
“We are not waiting on cargo, and with all that cargo stuck on ships, people will be looking to buy local,” Country Collectibles owner Paula Shaw said.
Others, like KMH Music, have beaten the rush by ordering supplies far in advance, so that they can have everything they need to offer customers during the holiday rush.
“Last year business was down slightly from the year before that,” KMH Music owner Chris Morton said. “We are looking to do a lot better this year because of the supply chains. We stocked up early as a precaution.”
Local businesses also have been preparing precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some businesses respectfully ask customers to enter wearing a mask, while others make it optional and supply hand sanitizer inside.
“Last year, no vaccines were available, so people were definitely more timid,” Merchants on the Corner owner Chantal Graves said. “This year, people are more apt to come out. We have hand sanitizer for customers, and people are welcomed to wear masks if they like.”
A number of businesses have been predicting that specific items will sell well, such as acoustic guitars from KMH Music, Funko Pop figures from Crown Collectibles, rocks and crystals from Morningstar Art and Framing and Altai Hok skis from Presque Isle Bike, Board and Ski.
“Clothing has been doing well, but Altai Hok skis are looking to do really well,” Presque Isle Bike Board and Ski co-owner Andrew Bouchard said. “They are like a cross between a ski and a snowshoe.”
Others predict that there is no specific product that will sell more than others, but that it will be a good year for all their products, such as Merchants on the Corner, Northern Maine Flower and Country Collectibles.
It will just depend on people’s tastes and what they are looking for, Shaw said.
“Most of everything we have has been selling quite well,” said Preston Tracey, owner of the cannabis store Northern Maine Flower. “We have had a pretty steady clientele, and we are trying to make the best out of how life is now.”