MIKE AND BETSY FEAR, owners of Now You’re Cooking in Bath, are shown in their store. They are celebrating 15 years of being in business this month.

MIKE AND BETSY FEAR, owners of Now You’re Cooking in Bath, are shown in their store. They are celebrating 15 years of being in business this month.

BATH

W hen Mike and Betsy Fear opened Now You’re Cooking, a cookware store located in Bath, in 2000, Mike made a deal: his goal was to be in business for 10 years, but he would quit after two if he “stopped having fun.”

“We’re still having fun,” Mike said, as he and Betsy celebrate 15 years of being in business this month.

“IT’S A WAY (the celebration) to let people know we’re here and what we do, but especially that we feel grateful to be able to do this,” said Mike Fear. “Bath is a great place to live and work.”

“IT’S A WAY (the celebration) to let people know we’re here and what we do, but especially that we feel grateful to be able to do this,” said Mike Fear. “Bath is a great place to live and work.”

To mark the occasion, they wanted to focus their 15th anniversary on the community, and gave customers a chance to participate in $15,000 worth of giveaways and other special events for 15 days this month.

LOUSIA EDGERTON, an employee at Now You’re Cooking, arranges some kitchen tools on the “gadget wall” at the Bath store.

LOUSIA EDGERTON, an employee at Now You’re Cooking, arranges some kitchen tools on the “gadget wall” at the Bath store.

“It’s a way to let people know we’re here and what we do, but especially that we feel grateful to be able to do this,” he said. “Bath is a great place to live and work.”

When they first opened the store, Mike recalled that community members were “very enthusiastic, very encouraging and very skeptical,” he said with a laugh.

He admits that he himself didn’t know that the store would make it this far, though opening a cookware store seemed natural, and aligned with his love of cooking — “it made sense,” said Betsy.

Mike said a cookbook he bought at 7 years old sparked this hobby. He said both his mother and sister were wonderful cooks, and throughout his life, he was always on the lookout for a good cookware store, much like the one he owns today.

Betsy also added that timing was important to the success of the store.

“Fifteen years ago, the climate was very different. The thing that was helpful to us was that people started cooking more at home, and there were also cooking shows on TV,” she said. “We came in when people were looking for good quality items that you can use to cook for yourself.”

Mike also attributes the store’s success to his customers and “incredible” staff, whom he describes as a “team — a family,” whom he is always willing to listen to for advice before making major decisions. He noted that all his employees have wonderful strengths and contribute positively to the store.

“It’s a team effort and the staff all take full ownership and pride,” he said. “I would say very much of the success of the store is because of the great people working here.”

A cast of experienced workers makes up the current staff at Now You’re Cooking, including Polly Walker, the store’s first employee who “helped us find our way and the direction we were going,” according to Betsy.

“It’s a great place to work,” said Walker.

In addition to increasing the number of workers over the years, the 1,800 square feet of retail space the Fears started out with eventually expanded to 3,000 in 2003, making room for more kitchens gadgets and other products.

“It really worked out perfectly. We like the size of the store, although I still think it’s amazing that a small city like Bath can support a store like this,” Mike said.

The bulk of their customers are from the immediate area of Bath and Brunswick, though they also receive regular visitors from Lewiston, Auburn, Portand and all over Maine. The store is well-known to out-of-staters as well.

And despite the imminent influx of travelers this summer, Mike said he enjoys his local customers the most because he is able to establish relationships with them. Betsy said customers feel welcome and are able to take ownership and say “this is my store” through the relationships they build together.

Over the years, the Fears have also enjoyed getting to know the community and supporting local programs in the area.

The Bath Family YMCA, the Patten Free Library, the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, the Chocolate Church, Main Street Bath and the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program are only a few of the organizations they have supported over the years.

As for his advice to potential business owners in Bath, Mike emphasized the importance of understanding customers’ needs and considering the input of staff members.

“Have fun. If it’s not fun, don’t bother,” was his other advice. “We’ve had 15 years of fun and we’re having a great time. We have a laugh every day.”

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