Jim Forrest, left, the new owner of Al’s Sport Center in Lewiston, sits with Mike Simpson, the former owner, center, and Forrest’s son, Nick. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Jim Forrest was walking on the treadmill next to friend Mike Simpson at the gym last year when Simpson asked if he might know of anyone looking to buy a ski and boat shop.

“I just said, ‘Jeez, I don’t know, I’ve got a pretty good job,'” said Forrest, of Auburn.

Months later, for the fifth time in his human resources career, the company he worked for got bought out and let management go.

Forrest wasn’t up for a sixth time.

“I said, ‘You know what, Mike, it hasn’t worked out too well, let’s start talking,'” Forrest said.

He and wife Cindy bought a ski and boat shop.

Al’s Sport Center is the first business they’ve owned, but the fit made sense, Forrest said.

“Boating has always been what I do, what I love,” he said. “It’s a big part of me.”

Growing up, his family spent summers on a houseboat in Harpswell. One of his human resource positions was at a tugboat company and he owns a 31-foot boat they take on Sebago Lake.

“People come in with their kid and they’re buying tubes and life jackets,” Forrest said. “Older, retired people come in for a fishing boat or a small pontoon boat, it’s all over the board. You’re never too old or too young to be all-in in boating.”

Simpson has stayed on, for now, as a mechanic, consultant and mentor.

“Not a lot is computerized here; that’s how they did their business,” Forrest said. “Someone comes in for a part, Mike will go, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got one of those,’ go upstairs, rummage around and come up with it. He’s done this for so long.”

The Forrests’ son, Nick, an Edward Little High School graduate in the Class of 2000, will run the ski shop in the winter. He raced both at EL and Plymouth State University.

Jim Forrest said he’s hoping to eventually turn Al’s over to Nick and make it a multi-generational family business.

The shop has plenty of precedent for that.

Mike Simpson’s father, Al, opened Al’s Sport Center in 1964 with Harvey Patry.

Simpson said before that, his grandfather and two brothers owned a hardware and electrical appliance store on the corner of Lisbon and Pine streets, A&R Simpson Co., in the 1930s. His father worked there after coming home from World War II.

An avid fisherman, hunter and skier, Al Simpson expanded the business until “they were building boats on the second floor,” Simpson said.

After that shop closed in 1961, Patry, who owned land on outer Lisbon Street, approached his father and asked if he built a building, would Al like to partner with him for a boat and ski business.

He bought Patry out after a few years and built the current building, at 1818 Lisbon Road, in 1982.

“The Patrys were very nice people and very instrumental in the beginning,” Simpson said.

Mike started working in his father’s shop in 1971, at age 17. He and his wife, Kathy, took over the business when his father died suddenly in 1987.

Last year, they were ready for a change.

“They’re nice guys to work for, so that’s why I’m doing it,” Mike said of staying on for the handoff.

“He can work here as long as he wants to,” Forrest said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.