Driving down Route 202 in Greene near the Leeds town line, you really can’t miss George Stanley’s place.
With an alien on the roof, orange traffic cones aplenty, and thousands of items nailed, tied, stapled and painted on and around the building, it naturally attracts attention.
It certainly does with town officials. They’ve denied his requests for a business license twice over the past two years. According to Greene Town Manager Charles Noonan, the requests were turned down because of the excessive number and size of the signs on the store and grounds. In addition, Noonan said he had no business plan with his first application.
Currently, a lawsuit filed by Stanley is pending in court, so Noonan is limited on what he can say on the topic.
Aside from the free advice George is willing to give, he sells and trades whatever he can at his store.
“I buy out-of-season items from the big box stores for pennies on the dollar and turn them around for a modest profit. We are not into making money. In fact, most of the time we lose money. It’s more than just the junk man on the side of the road in Greene, Maine. It’s an unfinished project, like the Sistine Chapel that took seven years. Give me seven years and see where we are.”
Raised in a religious cult, he knows about living off the land. In fact, he has more than 25 fruit trees around the building that he hopes will some day not only help sustain him and his partner, Donna Wesson, but be bountiful enough for him to sell some fruit and give away the rest. He says the couple donate and help out at most of the local thrift shops, soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters.
But more than the material goods, his voice is what carries Stanley. He has opinions on many things and doesn’t hesitate to express them. He speaks out at colleges, town offices and radio shows. He’s had run-ins with the governor and just recently went to Washington, D.C., to protest.
“I have had 29 stores, been a landlord and worked with the poor and oppressed. I have helped pick up people off the streets and given shelter and jobs to many, reaching all fabrics of society,” Stanley said. “I work on a shoestring budget and I only hope to make a few dollars to put gas in my car to get around.”
He has no running water, and built an outhouse behind the property. “The town didn’t like that and I had to buy one,” he said.
A few years ago, the town outlawed long-term flea markets and similar operations, such as Stanley’s. Since then, Stanley has been fighting with town officials to have the laws changed. He has passed out hundreds of fliers asking residents of Greene to call the town office and complain.
“This is like my Custer’s last stand,” he said, as he walked around his snowed-in property recently. After gathering enough signatures, Stanley has managed to get a petition for removing the town’s flea market ordinance on the ballot for the town’s March 1 meeting.