Hobby Lobby in Auburn has reopened for business. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Hobby Lobby reopened Monday after being deemed an essential business by the state because it sells cloth that could be used to make face masks.

The chain faced backlash for staying open longer than other retailers in the face of COVID-19 and closed April 3, furloughing employees.

In Maine, at least, Hobby Lobby argued to reopen.

A letter from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development obtained by the Sun Journal dated April 16 reads: “We have received your designation request. After careful review, it has been determined that Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. does align with the intent of and interests served by the Governor’s Executive Order 28FY19/20 and therefore is considered an essential business within the meaning of the Order.”

It’s signed by DECD Commissioner Heather Johnson.

Like grocery stores, Hobby Lobby is limited in the number of customers allowed to be in the store at one time and must keep customers 6 feet apart in line.


Since Gov. Janet Mills issued her stay-at-home order on March 31, roughly 2,500 requests have come in to the DECD to be designated an essential business, spokeswoman Kate Foye said.

She estimated more than 1,600 have been granted.

After Mills’ order, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control started encouraging people to wear face masks out in public to curtail the spread of the virus, and “due to that change in guidance on the federal level, DECD made some adjustments to initial decisions allowing for stores that requested to be essential because they sold fabric that could be used for making cloth face coverings to be open,” Foye said.

A sign on the door on Monday indicated Hobby Lobby is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday with a daily special shopping hour from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. “for our customers age 60 or older or who are at risk.”

Management at the Auburn store directed all questions to the corporate office. Messages left at the corporate office were not returned.

Maine’s third Hobby Lobby, in Waterville, opened March 9. The stores in Waterville and Bangor also reopened on Monday.

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