SOUTH PORTLAND – The grand-opening festivities haven’t taken place yet, but Bull Moose’s Mill Creek store has already drawn curious customers.
The chain, which started out as a single record store, will celebrate the opening of its 11th location Saturday and Sunday with giveaways and appearances by bands and a performance group whose players include fire jugglers and belly dancers.
But it didn’t take that kind of spectacle to catch the attention of customers. They started peeking in the windows after the construction debris was removed. They ventured inside after the Bull Moose sign was lit on the Waterman Drive building last week.
A couple of days after its soft opening on Veterans Day, the store was still getting ready. Most of the shelves were stocked, but there was still inventory to put out. Stacks of Monopoly games, cribbage boards and puzzles waited to be shelved. Workers were installing the security system.
After eyeing the Mill Creek area for years, Bull Moose bought the space, a former Blockbuster store, earlier this year and expanded it.
The company is “opportunistic” in its approach, said Brett Wickard, who founded the business 23 years ago when he was in college.
When the economy was booming, he said, the company resisted the urge to expand and saved up for the future.
“The economy’s telling us now’s the time to grow, now’s the time to take reasonable risk. And, frankly, spaces that weren’t available are available,” Wickard said earlier this week.
Wickard likes the neighborhood feel of the area and says the inventory will reflect those surroundings. He thinks, for example, that the location will draw shoppers in need of gifts, so toys, board games and tchotchkes are a larger percentage of the mix than at other locations.
The 11,200-square-foot store still stocks the requisite music, movies and video games. It is one of three Bull Moose locations that sells books.
The business got its start when Wickard, then a Bowdoin College student, decided to replace a local record store that had shut down. Bull Moose now sells much more than music, and much of its inventory also appeals to collectors.
Used items, whether books, video games or movies, continue to be a growing part of the business. Wickard said that giving a used item as a gift has become more acceptable in the past 10 years, and not just among younger age brackets.
“You don’t have to have money to get something,” he said.
On a recent morning, 4-year-old Amelia Welborn and her father, Jason, were at Bull Moose at her suggestion. They typically go to the Scarborough location, Jason Welborn said, but the Mill Creek store is closer to their home in Cape Elizabeth.
Amelia wasn’t interested in the magnets, stickers or candles displayed around the store. Instead, she found the yo-yo she’d been wanting for a while and a few books to peruse. “Mommy Hugs” kept her attention better than a “Star Wars” Scanimation book that her father, a computer animator, pointed out.
“I like books!” Amelia declared.
Store manager Mick Pratt surveyed the progress that has been made. A week earlier, all the books were on the floor and hundreds of boxes of used products still needed to be unpacked.
“I feel really good. It’s just like when you exercise – you get endorphins to the brain,” he said. “We hope that momentum carries us forward.”
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: