Out of the Woods celebrates 10th anniversary

By Ben Holbrook | Jun 22, 2012
Photo by: Ben Holbrook Caty Richardson (left) and Diane Braybrook stand outside Out of the Woods during the store's 10th anniversary tent sale.

Belfast — Out of the Woods is celebrating 10 years of selling Maine-made products in downtown Belfast.

Owner Bob MacGregor first opened Out of the Woods on Front Street before jumping at the chance to move to the current location at 48 Main St. The store originally only sold wood products, because MacGregor wanted to promote the items made by members of the Maine Wood Products Association, where he serves as executive director.

Since opening the store, MacGregor readily admits running the business has been a learning experience, as he had no prior experience in the world of retail.

“We sort of just dove into it,” MacGregor said. “We had the downtown business group, which is now Our Town Belfast, and we would have meetings, and those were very helpful."

The store eventually expanded its offerings, and now Maine-made products of all kinds can be purchased. However, MacGregor said one of the challenges he faces is finding new products made in the state, and finding specific products requested by customers.

MacGregor said he often gets requests from customers to carry locally made toys, but he said the problem with meeting that demand is finding people who make toys. He said there aren’t many toymakers in the state, but it is something he is continuing to investigate.

When it comes to finding new products, MacGregor said he tries to avoid duplicating items that other stores carry while also acknowledging there are certain items that don’t work well in his store.

“We experimented with food some, but food is tough because it has a shelf life,” he said.

When customers enter the store there are generally two comments MacGregor and his staff hear: the first is how good the store smells and the second is how happy the customers are to see locally made products, MacGregor said.

In addition to actively searching for new products to sell, MacGregor said he also sees a number of people who stop by the store to ask if he is interested in purchasing their products.

“I had a guy from Lincoln who showed up out of the blue and he makes cedar chests. He had loaded his truck that morning and drove down here and I ended up buying a few and they sold right away,” MacGregor said.

One thing MacGregor has learned over the past 10 years running his store is that everybody has a story, and those stories are something he would like to share with the customers. He said he is considering including a write-up of the story behind each item he carries with it, so that people have a greater appreciation for the people who make the products.

Hearing the stories of the people who make the products in the store and the customers plays a large role in why Caty Richardson, an assistant manager at Out of the Woods, has enjoyed working at the store for the past three summers. She started working while she was in high school, and said there isn’t another job she could imagine herself doing that she would enjoy more.

“I love talking to the people and getting to hear a little about everyone I meet,” she said. “I’m actually moving to Bangor and I have to think about getting a new job, but I don’t really want to think about it. I love working here and coming in every day.”

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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