Ethan Dumont, an employee of Maine Grown, greets customers Wednesday at the store on Main Street that houses Roopers. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

This week in the Buzz, it’s Top Gun LA’s new class, preliminary approval for an Auburn housing development and, over on Main Street in Auburn, move over salami.

The Auburn Planning Board this month approved a medical marijuana company moving into the 300-square-foot space formerly occupied by a deli inside Roopers convenience store at 301 Main St.

Maine Grown LLC opened last week.

Founder and President Nicholas Morton said he’d waited for the city to set its rules around medical marijuana storefronts before pursuing a location in his hometown. He farms in Poland and Wales and had been pursuing a 5,000-square-foot storefront in Poland that, despite years of work, never quite got off the ground.

“A lot of overhead and a lot of complications, so we purposely went for a small (space) this go-around just so we could focus more on the medical flowers and the patient and less on all of the other services,” Morton said. “We don’t know if in the end it’s going to bite us to be too small, but we’re already eyeballing another location over in Lewiston.”

He liked this particular space, a former Subway and pizza shop, for traffic and location.

“I know there was some concern or resistance about putting marijuana next to alcohol,” he said. “It’s just complicated as the industry grows and everyone has concerns, and we share those concerns. But what we did was we put it attached to the building with a separate entrance and met the city’s requirements.”

Maine Grown, a medical marijuana store is open at Roopers on Main Street in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

New housing

The Auburn board also gave preliminary approval to a $4.2 million housing development on North River Road, now called West Shore Landing Apartments, by developer Tim Millett.

Millett initially proposed the complex in November.

“We expect a final approval request for February or March depending on when we get the additional information from the applicant,” said Eric Cousens, deputy director of Economic & Community Development. “(Thirty-six) waterfront rental units will be a nice housing option.”

New entrepreneurs

The fourth and latest class of Top Gun LA was announced Wednesday with nine entrepreneurs at eight companies representing a little bit of everything.

Teachers. Superheroes. Pups.

“These folks are all very enthusiastic to get started,” said Scott Benson, director of economic development at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the local Top Gun organizer.

The program is part of the statewide effort by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs and culminates with a pitch-off for regional finalists in Portland vying for a $25,000 prize from the Maine Technology Institute.

It’s sponsored locally by the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.

In this year’s class:

• Hillary Dow, Binding Tales LLC, Auburn

Binding Tales offers interactive children’s books with prompts for the child to write in and add to the story. Like several other companies, it’s already in business but looking to grow, Benson said.

• Michelle DeBlois and Kathryn Lariviere, LiteracyTech Inc., Auburn

The Auburn teachers are developing a website that will allow teachers and parents to track students’ reading and comprehension while also empowering young readers.

• Benjamin Santos, Cosplay Convention Center, Lewiston

Santos has run a website for several years that helps convention-goers search by region, state and theme and is looking to expand.

• Sophia Bailey, Caribbean Life Grocery, Lewiston

The grocery and gift shop opened four years ago on Lisbon Street.

“She’s looking to diversify the offerings in her store,” Benson said.

• Mark Parker, Yardduck, Camden

He’s developing a platform to connect small business owners with customers and help with back office operations.

• Carolyn Delaney, Journey, Portland

Delaney launched Journey magazine last year focused on making recovery from addiction visible, Benson said, and is looking to scale up.

• Kristina Slocum, Cooking to Gather, Topsham

An event planner, Slocum’s developing the business to serve groups of friends or company retreats, he said, guiding menu creation and cooking in a new kitchen space.

• Laci Barnett, Dog-a-holick, Raymond

Dog-a-holick is already a popular, award-winning dog grooming salon in Westbrook and Barnett is looking to expand.

“She envisions almost a campus where there would be dog grooming, but also opportunity for a dog park and those kind of things,” Benson said.

After several months of lessons on a variety of business-minded topics, kicked off by MTI President Brian Whitney, and working with mentors, the eight companies will participate in a regional pitch-off at the May chamber of commerce breakfast. Two winners that morning will head to the state finals.

The goal of the program is to grow the business and job creation base in Maine.

“Maybe in the future as they establish themselves (and grow their companies), they’ll think about Lewiston-Auburn,” Benson said.

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


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