GRAND ISLE, Maine — Grand Isle has plenty of weed, but not enough snacks.
A convenience store housed in a former convent is closing after its electric bill and other expenses skyrocketed, leaving three marijuana dispensaries as the last businesses on Main Street in this border town of fewer than 500 people.
Bruce and Heather Bouley bought the Grand Isle General Store in 2014, reviving what used to be home to the Daughters of Wisdom, a small convent built in 1937. The pair said Monday on Facebook that they would close the store on March 31.
That means residents face the closing of a local convenience store for the second time in a decade, leaving the Full Bloom, Cloud 9 and Green Cross Compassion — all marijuana dispensaries — as the only remaining storefronts in town.
Grand Isle General Store is among thousands of small businesses across Maine that have struggled with rising prices, supply line issues and labor shortages. But the electric bill, provided by Versant Power, nearly doubled in the last few months was one of the latest reasons the Bouleys decided to close their family business.
Most Maine residents saw a 30 percent increase in their electric bills on Jan. 1 as the result of rapidly escalating prices for the natural gas that powers New England’s energy grid. That hike reflected an almost 95 percent increase in natural gas prices from October 2020 through October 2021.
Grand Isle General Store opened its doors one year after the long-standing Frenchie’s nearby closed, making it the only convenience store between Madawaska and Van Buren.
“There are always going to be things that are beyond our control. You can keep up for as long as you can. In our case it was more of really, how can you justify raising your prices?,” Heather Bouley said. “For people in a position like we are, we’re the ones that fill in the gaps but we’re also doing everything else we were doing previously. Burnout is inevitable. You can only go like that for so long.”
The general store was a place where you could buy certain pantry items and other foods without having to drive either 8 miles to Madawaska or 15 miles to Van Buren
For a town with approximately 465 residents, the lack of a general store may not come as a surprise, but the general store’s closing and leaving behind three dispensaries as one of the town’s main sources of tax revenue might.
The dispensaries were brought into Grand Isle for the town’s potential growth, according to Grand Isle Board of Selectman Otis Frierson. The tax revenue generated by the dispensaries aids Grand Isle in keeping the tax rates lower, Frierson said.
Green Cross Compassion was the first of the three marijuana caregiving stores to establish themselves in Grand Isle. The company wound up in Grand Isle after many other towns turned the business away, according to Green Cross Compassion President Shannon Breault. Not only is Grand Isle the place of Breault’s business, it is his home, he said.
“This is our town, this is where we live, this is where it is for us,” Breault said. “It’s not just about marijuana, it’s about the town, it’s about all of it. The Grand Isle store closing is a shock, to tell you honestly. All the people in the town that put their money into helping that place thrive. Then they just close on you.”
The town was happy for his business to be there, Breault said.
“Nobody voted for us not to be here. We have a lot of customers from town. I would say we’re pretty accepted, at least I hope we would be. Marijuana is supposed to help people, not to become a millionaire. The marijuana community was always one person helping another, not getting rich off of your brother,” he said.