In this Aug. 17, 2019, file photo, the "Kind of Blue" album cover is on display at the former Bull Moose record store in Portland. Credit: David Sharp / AP

Maine’s iconic music retailer Bull Moose will have new leadership after its founder announced he’s stepping down after 33 years.

Brett Wickard, who founded the retailer in 1989 while he was a student at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, will remain as chair of the board of directors, but he intends to focus his energy growing his retail software management company, FieldStack, the company announced Tuesday.

“It has been an honor of a lifetime to establish and grow Bull Moose to where it is today,” Wickard said. “I was barely 20 years old when I started selling tapes and CDs with a larger vision to support and cultivate Maine musicians and artists. What exists today is beyond my wildest dreams. Bull Moose is in great hands and many great things are to come.”

Taking his place as CEO and president is Shawn Nichols, a Maine native and graduate of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Nichols has an extensive background in retail, having worked at Walmart, Staples, Starbucks and most recently Goodwill, where he served as director of retail operations and oversaw 17 Maine stores. He joined Bull Moose as vice president of operations in February 2021.

“Bull Moose is an iconic New England brand and I am thrilled to be part of this incredible group of people who are genuinely passionate and expressive about the arts,” Nichols said. “There is no doubt about it, this is a dream come true for me.”

The change of leadership comes months after Bull Moose announced it was transitioning into worker ownership under an employee stock ownership plan. The company said Tuesday that this will give Bull Moose’s more than 170 workers across 11 stores in two states a “long-term professional opportunity,” and Nichols credited the move with giving employees a sense of ownership.

“I’m incredibly excited about Bull Moose shifting to an ESOP. We’re being given more of a voice to guide the company’s growth and changes going forward,” said Tyler Lepack, Shift Supervisor at the Bull Moose Scarborough store. “Brett also offered to remain a trusted contact for us, giving a sense of safety that whatever we may try, he’ll still be here if we need it.”

Under this new structure, Bull Moose will be overseen by a board of directors, trustees committee and worker committee.

That move followed controversy in 2021 when Bull Moose fired its Salem, New Hampshire, store’s entire staff and closed the location, which the workers said was over their pushback to the chain’s decision to lift its COVID-19 masking policy for customers. Wickard later apologized and offered everyone their jobs back. The Salem store workers voted to unionize in September.

Bull Moose closed its flagship store in Portland’s Old Port in 2020.