Outdoors in Maine: A changing of the guard with same customer service

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Not unlike the old general store, the traditional Maine sporting goods store — to the hunter or angler — is a special place. It’s where you go to trade a gun or find a new one, or have a scope mounted, or buy live bait for that ice fishing trip. Or you just might stop in to kill time, to look around and see what’s new and chat with the owner — a man you have known for many years.

That place for me is the Old Town Trading Post. That man is Dave Hanson. But nothing is forever, as they say. After 31 years of owning and operating the Old Town Trading Post, Dave, and his wife Sandy, are hanging it up. They recently sold the business to a Brewer family, Dave Lorenz and his wife Melissa. The transition will be official in early November.

“You know when it’s time,” Dave told me with a smile.” I’ve loved every minute of working here, despite the long hours and little time off, but it’s time to spend more time with my family and grand kids. I have a Pushaw Lake camp to spruce up. I want to learn to fly fish with my 87-year old Dad, go to a state fair, go apple picking, slow down some.”

Born and brought up in Derby outside Milo, Dave, an avid hunter and sportsmen (he shot his first deer at 12-years- old). He purchased the Old Town Trading Post from his uncle, Albert Amero, in 1984. He first called the store Hanson’s Sport Shop but was forced by legal action to discontinue use of that name. He settled for Old Town Trading Post, and the name stuck.

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“For many years, we were open 7 days a week,” Dave recalls. “Managing people does not come easy to me. There was a lot of trial and error. I made some mistakes along the way, and almost lost the store.”

Ironically, he never actively sought a buyer for the store, never retained a realtor. He waited for the right person to come along, and, about a year ago, that person did: Dave Lorenz, an active outdoorsman and experienced businessman.

Hanson said that he would not have sold his business to just anyone.

“I wanted someone local, someone who would maintain the store’s identity, and make it better. Dave and Melissa are the ones, the right fit!”

Like any good retail operation, the Old Town Trading Post has a niche. “Ours is guns, new and used at fair prices. Our gun inventory is about 1,000. And we sell to folks all over Maine, especially folks from Aroostook, Hancock and Washington counties. We also have an extensive ice fishing inventory and a busy bait business in the winter,” he says with some pride in his voice.

I asked Dave if the changing times with the advent of chains and big box stores has negatively affected his business. He smiled, ” You know, in the beginning I feared that it would, but it turned out just the opposite. Business got better as more and more shoppers came to the Bangor area.”

The new owners, Dave Lorenz and his wife Melissa, are avid sportsmen. Both are impassioned big woods deer hunters. They are as excited as school kids about this new chapter in their lives. Dave, a 52-year-old business executive for 35 years, has always dreamed of owning a sporting goods store since he graduated from high school. Melissa has been dealing with customers for years, behind the gun counter at Van Ramond’s Sport Shop in Brewer and as an office manager for the game-call company, Extreme Dimension.

Both express their admiration for how Dave and Sandy Hanson ran their business.

“It’s important to me to make sure that the Old Town Trading Post’s legacy and reputation for fairness, high integrity and personal customer service continues under our ownership,” Lorenz said.

“It was the hardest decision I have ever made,” Lorenz said.” It wasn’t easy leaving a company like Garelick Farms after so many years. They have been good to me, but our children are grown and this is the time for Melissa and me to make the move, if we are going to. The timing is good for us and good for Dave and Sandy.”

The new owners have plans to expand some product lines and to launch an interactive web site that will allow customers to shop online.They have some other exciting plans, but are keeping those close to the vest for the time being.

The store name will not be changed, says Melissa. Husband Dave points out that he plans to include other members of his family in their new undertaking. The store will be open 7 days a week under the new ownership.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is vpaulr@tds.net. He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”

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