The Buzz: Top Gun LA accepting entrepreneurial applicants, and Artios Books to close

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This week, the Buzz can barely catch a breath — there’s so much happening, not happening and nearly happening.

Nearly opened

Applications for the entrepreneurial and business kick-start program Top Gun LA open next week, and for the Class of 2019, there’s a twist.

Beckie Conrad, president of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said the regional pitch-off will take place during the May 2019 chamber breakfast.

“So you will all be part of the pitch audience this year for our class of entrepreneurs,” Conrad said during Thursday’s breakfast.

Pitch winners go on to face the regional winners out of Top Gun classes in Bangor, Portland and Rockland, competing for prizes and help.

“We want a really strong, big class,” Conrad said. “We want to show we’re a community of entrepreneurs and new business starts.”

The application period will run through Nov. 12.

Nearly closed

After 18 years, Artios Books, on high-traffic Turner Street in Auburn with the large sign “!!BOOKS!!!” over the entrance, is closing its doors.

Walter Lantz, who runs the shop with owner Susan Cutting, said his landlord is ending his lease to make way for a marijuana retailer. Lantz said they haven’t been given a firm date to leave, but it will be before 2019.

He said he and Cutting don’t have the money to relocate the business.

“The book business is dead right now, it’s just totally died out. The computer is taking over,” Lantz said.

Happening now

After being in the works for more than a year, the new $3.2 million convenience store/gas station/restaurant project on the corner of Sabattus Street and East Avenue is open!

David Hediger, Lewiston’s director of planning and code enforcement, said Thursday that all final approvals and licenses had been obtained. 

The project by Guggenheim Real Estate Partners of Texas, with an Amato’s and an Irving gas station, will bring activity to what had been a long-vacant former grocery store.

Write on

Financial adviser Kevin Frisbie, born and raised in Rumford and living in Lewiston, served as guest speaker at Thursday’s chamber breakfast and delivered a speech that was pep-talk-meets-general-advice.

Among that advice: 

— Keep learning

“I’m the best student; I’m the biggest sponge you’ll ever find,” Frisbie said. “It doesn’t matter what your business is, there’s someone that does the job better than you somewhere in the country.”

Find them and learn from them.

— Set aside at least 10 percent of your income and “do not loan money unless you’re a bank or credit union.”

— A little reading for inspiration: the books “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek and Jeffrey Fox’s “How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients.”

— Finally, have a goal? Go for it. He did: Frisbie said he had wanted to write a book for 12 years before finally making the time to do it. “Every Dime, Every Day” came out four months ago.

New tanks 

J&S Oil Xpress Stop on Center Street got a city permit to replace three underground petroleum storage tanks Wednesday and wasted no time — by Thursday all was fenced off and looked fairly excavated.

It’s expected to reopen in a month, according to an official with Simard & Sons, the project contractor.

New school space

The Margaret Murphy Centers for Children has taken over the old Pineland Carpets building at 1520 Hotel Road in Auburn and is spending $400,000 to turn the old flooring space into an indoor playground and classrooms for about 28 children.

The new space will serve as an expansion to the Margaret Murphy school next door.

Peter Kowalski, CEO of John F. Murphy Homes, which runs the Margaret Murphy Centers, said the expansion is sorely needed.

“We’re overburdened and don’t have enough room,” he said. “We definitely need it. And the convenience of it being right next door means we can sort of merge the parking between the two because we have some parking problems there, too.”

Construction has started on the building but has been delayed as crews struggle to find enough workers. The job will be finished sometime this fall.

The Hotel Road project is not John F. Murphy Homes’ only project and it’s not the only one to be delayed in part by a lack of workers. A new 16,000-square-foot nursing home at 325 Summer St. in Auburn now has a roof, but construction is behind schedule.

“Nobody can hire help,” Kowalski said. “We were hoping to open that by the end of November. It looks like now that’s going to be pushed off until almost February.”

Cloud news

Grand Rounds announced Thursday that it’ll be in the September issue of Forbes Magazine in the Forbes 2018 Cloud 100 at No. 54. The rankings represent the top 100 cloud-based private companies (think tech, data analytics, cybersecurity, software).

In 2016, San Francisco-based Grand Rounds expanded to Lewiston and announced plans to hire 200 people in the next five years. It’s the company’s second year in a row on the Cloud 100 list.

This just in …

Two weeks ago, the Buzz mentioned Side By Each Brewing Co.’s innovative funding strategy, offering shares in a community-supported brewing program and naming rights for equipment including “a shiny fermenter, our sexy espresso machine or a luxurious restroom stall.”

In late August, Side By Each received a building permit for the $640,000 project changing the former Hammond Tractor on Minot Avenue into a brewery, a gathering space and a spot for Randy Smith’s The Poutine Factory.

In a story Thursday on the business page about Walmart hiring 50 more truck drivers for its Lewiston distribution center, two figures came in after deadline:

Spokeswoman Michelle Malashock said 100 drivers are currently based out of that distribution center — so it’s hoping to grow that number by 50 percent.

And, it turns out drivers are a hot commodity locally.

The state’s job bank system lists 198 truck driving openings within a 50-mile radius of Lewiston, according to Mary LaFontaine, regional director of Southern CareerCenters.

That count doesn’t include the Walmart positions and doesn’t factor in that not every local employer uses the site.

Staff writer Lindsay Tice contributed to this Buzz.

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 207-689-2844 or [email protected]

The new Irving gas station at East Avenue and Sabattus Street in Lewiston is open as seen Thursday afternoon. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Among financial adviser Kevin Frisbie’s advice Thursday morning at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast was think about your motivations and keep learning. (Kathryn Skelton/Sun Journal)

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