SKOWHEGAN — The closing of the RadioShack store in Skowhegan Village Plaza in early December marked one of the many changes for Skowhegan businesses in 2014.

Businesses came and went; stores opened and closed, expanded and changed location.

“I think that we have seen a lot of pluses this year in Skowhegan,” said Jeff Hewett, the town’s economic and community development director. “There have been renovations and some expansions.”

Aimey Ribeiro, owner of Bargain Hunter in the Skowhegan Plaza off Waterville Road, opened in February with retail merchandise for doomsday preppers, wedding gowns, fashion dresses and underwear for women bikers. The storefront, which had been vacant for 18 years, was closed again before the end of the year.

The Blue Moon Lounge next to the Somerset Grist Mill downtown, which in June 2013 promised a full bar, a large dance floor with live and DJ music and homemade food, never really got off the ground. Marc and Janet Wheeler of Skowhegan closed for the winter in 2013-14, reopened briefly in the spring, but then closed again and did not reopen.

On the other side of the ledger, however, Holland’s Variety Drug began construction of a new pharmacy near the Skowhegan Indian sculpture downtown.

Taconnet Federal Credit Union bought the former Tim Hortons shop on Madison Avenue.

Advance Auto Parts opened in a new building across the street from the future credit union location.

And the owner of the Children’s Cottage on Water Street converted the second story into a theater studio, a photography business and Pilates with Petra, a physical fitness studio for mind and body awareness.

The Kel-Mat Cafe, a busy sandwich shop on Madison Avenue, began renovations farther up the street for a move early this year to a location with plenty of parking.

Randy’s Auto built a large addition to the garage on Madison Avenue.

And Bigelow Brewing Co. opened with craft beers called Lying Bastard and Dementia Dog in April.

RadioShack announced plans in March to close 1,100 of its retail stores nationwide, representing 22 percent of the chain, according to published reports. After the store closings are completed, the company will be downsized to about 4,000 stores.

No information was provided about which RadioShack retail stores would be closing and in which states the store closings would occur.

In a Dec. 11 news release on the company’s website, Joseph C. Magnacca, chief executive officer, said the plan involves closing hundreds of stores, cutting budgets and laying off retail workers and employees at corporate headquarters. RadioShack reported a loss of $161 million for the three-month period that ended Nov. 1.

At the beginning of 2014 there were 31 RadioShack locations in Maine, including the Skowhegan store and one that remains open in Waterville.

The company’s media relations team said that it is not issuing specific announcements about individual store closings, even though the RadioShack location in Skowhegan is now empty.

Elsewhere around Skowhegan in 2014, Country Crow Primitives set up shop in the store vacated on Water Street in the move by Children’s Cottage.

Greg Salisbury, owner of Hill Top Antiques, also on Water Street, is opening an annex in a former tanning salon to sell antiques, collectibles and decorative items.

Tina White, owner of Crafty Creations on Water Street, said business continued to increase in 2014 with clothing alterations since the closing of a local dry cleaners.

Red Roof Relics shop also opened on Water Street in 2014.

The Somerset Grist Mill continues to grow in the former county jail downtown. Maine Grains at the Grist Mill more than doubled sales in 2014 to $250,000, owner Amber Lambke said.

“We have a staff of six employees,” Lambke said. “In 2015 we will launch online sales, expand our distribution to Whole Foods stores in Boston, Connecticut and New Hampshire, while we continue to serve an increasing number of bakeries, restaurants and institutions.”

In a connection made just this week, Lambke said, the Grist Mill agreed to support the new Somerset County Jail in East Madison with a charitable donation of pallets of feed-grade grain for the jail’s pig farming operation.

The raising of vegetables and meat at the jail helps to offset food costs for inmates while teaching farming skills.

Main Street Skowhegan Director Dugan Murphy worked with Hewett to apply for a federal grant to finish the second phase of work to the downtown parking lot in 2014, which included a new asphalt surface and storm water improvements to stop flooding in nearby businesses.

The $1 million project was paid for with $900,000 in state and federal grants, with a $100,000 match from the downtown tax increment financing district and no contributions from local taxes.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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