Whether you are relocating to Lewiston for business, residence or both, the city has much to offer in the way of opportunity, entertainment, culture, and resources. One of the best places to find information on any and all of these things is the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber is located at the heart of the city and from their location, just up the street from Kaplan University. Continue exploring the surrounding streets and you will see the reasons Lewiston is a great place to work and live. Lisbon Street is considered the main artery of the city and for good reason; familiarity and deep roots are found here.
There is something to be said for longevity, particularly if you are looking for stability. A number of local businesses have made Lewiston their home for decades and have had a positive impact on the area economy. Country Kitchen has been baking in the area since 1903, FX Marcotte boasts 124 years of furniture sales. In 1943, J. Dostie Jeweler’s began offering their wares, and floral designs have been available for purchase from family-owned Dube’s Flower Shop since 1936.
It’s no wonder so many new business owners choose this section of Lewiston; the history of the area suggests a likely location for success. Even existing businesses like Rainbow Bicycles, see the value in a Lisbon Street location, and move their establishments from elsewhere to renovated buildings here.
Paul Poliquin has worked on Lisbon Street for over 40 years, starting just four days after he graduated from high school at Roger’s, a local jewelry store. He went to work for a clothing store five years later, and 15 years after that opened his own shop. He has been through the changing times and says he couldn’t imagine ever doing business anywhere but on Lisbon Street.
“Why would anyone want to come to downtown Lewiston? Take it from somebody who’s been here 40 years: I can’t think of a better place that I would want to work,” Poliquin said. “I love the downtown; I love what I do.”
Chip Morrison, president of the Androscoggin Chamber says the Lewiston he sees today is very different from a decade ago. One of the several, impressive changes is the rejuvenation of the Bates Mills Complex. Morrison said that in the late 1950s this complex employed some 5,000 people. About 15 years ago, that number was zero.
“With TD Bank, Davinci’s, AAA Insurance, Dr. Bowman, Baxter Brewing, and Fishbones, the number of people working in that complex is back up to 2,000,” said Morrison.
Deb Girouard and her husband, Skip, bought Dube’s Flower Shop 34 years ago and both say they see the downtown area as up and coming, and getting better all the time.
“It’s kind of amazing. I think anyone would do anything for someone else on this street, everyone sort of bands together,” said Deb. “We couldn’t imagine doing business anywhere else.”
Rainbow Bikes owner, John Grenier, says that a big factor in his decision to relocate his shop to Lisbon Street was the prospect of owning the building where he conducts his business. As a long-time resident of Lewiston, being able to be part of the revitalization of the downtown area was something he didn’t want to pass up. Grenier says that he has ridden bikes through some great communities and downtown areas that he says are thriving and he thinks Lewiston has a lot to offer and says there’s no reason it can’t be done here.
“The momentum’s starting, and I think it’s important that somebody take a chance with the retail part of it,” Grenier said, noting that both Paul’s Clothing and J. Dostie Jeweler’s have been successful for many years.
One of the most important things you will find in downtown Lewiston, Poliquin said, is the personal attention. You find what you want, but you also get product knowledge and personal service from employees, managers, and owners alike and, he said, you cannot find that anywhere else.
“I loved interacting with the customers, and I still love seeing those same people to this day,” said Poliquin.
Not opening a business? Lewiston definitely has more to offer people who make the area their new home. Culture for nearly anyone is just a short walk in any direction. The Franco-American Heritage Center, located in the renovated St. Mary’s Church, hosts concerts, plays and the like, not to mention the space is available to rent for weddings, parties and more.
“The Art Walk was one of the best things that has ever been done,” said Deb. “The first Art Walk was amazing. There were tons of people that come through here.”
Lyceum Gallery, Captive Elements, and many area businesses, like Lewiston Auburn Magazine and Kimball Street Studios, which opened in February of this year, showcase local artists.
“Just walk down Lisbon Street and see what else is happening,” Morrison said.
Dining out yields a wide array of choices. Restaurants like Fuel, specializing in a-la-carte French cuisine; Marche, a luncheon favorite; or Mother India, which offers authentic Indian dishes, are just three of the street’s options. In the Bates Mill there is Italian done by Davinci’s; around the corner is Pedro O’Hara’s, an interesting mix of Irish, American and Mexican food, often with live entertainment; the unique Forage Market is the newest addition to Lisbon Street; and within a nearby shopping complex, Sea40 has a hibachi-style Japanese menu. All of these dine-out choices have appetizers, entrees and more at reasonable prices with great service.
Downtown living is an upward trend. Apartments that are located above these businesses have been renovated and are renting out quickly. Business owners are living above their restaurants and storefronts, and they are renting other units to those who see the value in living downtown.
“One building at a time, it’s remarkable what’s happened over the last five years,” said Morrison about the upswing in Lisbon Street residences.
“I’m proud to not only own property in downtown Lewiston, but I’m proud to work in downtown Lewiston,” said Poliquin.
“We have the beautiful falls that are an attraction, the canal could be an attraction,” said Grenier. “We’ve got some really nice, old architecture, we’ve got some great churches; just some really interesting things down there.”
The Girouards say they’ve also noticed more and more people walking the street during their lunch hour, a sign they believe indicates that people are realizing the value in what downtown has to offer.
The perception that the downtown area is dangerous is outdated and in Grenier’s opinion “ridiculous.” He sees parking as the only real obstacle for any retail business, but found a way to dispel this misconception as well. “There’s plenty of parking in downtown Lewiston,” said Grenier. “I’ve done some walking surveys myself. How far is it to get to that garage on Park Street? It’s no further than if I were to park at Walmart or Best Buy or BJ’s to get to their front doors.”
So why should anyone seriously consider downtown Lewiston for business, dining, residence and entertainment? Take a drive, park your car and walk Lisbon Street and see for yourself.
“Lewiston has changed and it’s very positive,” Morrison said. “The momentum is incredible.”