WINDHAM — Businesses that survived – or even exceeded expectations – this spring and summer say they’re bracing for the “mystery” of a holiday season during a pandemic.

“I don’t know what every day is going to bring,” said Robert Mills, who co-owns the kitchen and home supply store Mills & Company at 778 Roosevelt Trail with his wife, Diana.

“Maybe I’m not supposed to admit that I worry but I do,” he said.

The business, which opened in 2002, has done relatively well so far because of what Mills said is people’s “natural desire to upgrade” their tools and gadgets as everyone stays home and cooks more. Still, it is impossible to make up for the four months they were closed in the spring, he said.

If it weren’t for the Paycheck Protection Program loan they received, “I would have been in a difficult situation,” he said.

The biggest challenge is significant supply chain distribution disruptions, which has made it difficult to get imported goods from Europe and Asia.

“It broke the routine of how things are being done,” Mills said.

Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Robin Mullins said that “businesses are going to have to continue to look at things a little differently in order to be successful.”

Over at 725 Roosevelt Trail, Blossoms of Windham owner Dwayne Harris said the flower shop has held about even with last year’s sales.

He was “one of the lucky ones,” he said, because the lockdown came just after Valentine’s Day and ended right before Mother’s Day, two of his biggest sales days of the year.

His business, which he bought in 2009, has survived largely in part to online orders. More people are buying flowers because they can’t see each other in person, he said.

In Bridgton, Nate Sunday co-owns Tasteful Things, a specialty grocery store, at 8 Depot St. with his wife, Carol. They opened a second, seasonal location in Naples in May of this year.

Sunday and his wife “thought long and hard” about opening a second store during a pandemic, but ultimately felt they had no other choice because they had been planning for the new store for over a year and were paying a premium for its Causeway location.

“We financed everything out of our own pocket. We kind of decided that we’re so far into this anyway, what’s going to be the harm,” he said.

Both stores were deemed essential and able to stay open in the spring, but things were “very, very slow,” and profits didn’t even hit 50% of last year’s numbers.

The drop in out-of-state summer tourists was certainly a threat to their business, Sunday said, but an increase in local customers and a slight boost from the second location, now closed for the season, put them back on track.

Bridgton Books co-owner Justin Ward said that locals and others moving into their second homes in the area was also a boost. He and his wife, Pam, opened the bookstore at 140 Main Street in 1993.

Blossoms, Tasteful Things, and the bookstore didn’t qualify for PPP loans.

But, Ward said, “there’s light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine.”

The winter season “is going to be a slow go,” said Sue Mercer, the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Mercer herself was on furlough from May to August and the office manager was laid off.

Unlike the other businesses, Heaven and Earth Day Spa and Wellness Center in Windham depends on in-person interactions between patrons and employees.

Maura Malia has owned the spa at 108 Tandberg Trail for the last 14 years and said that the $65,000 PPP loan “helped tremendously.”

She’s still waiting to hear if the loan will be forgiven.

“It’s frustrating. If that doesn’t get forgiven, that’s a different conversation we’re having,” she said.

The spa is busy but memberships are down about 25% and revenues are only at $170,000 through the end of September. Last year, the spa made about $450,000.

“We just have to get through every day. That’s the mode we’re in,” she said.

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