An open flag flies Friday above a sign listing cookies and snacks at Another Man’s Treasure in Farmingdale. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

FARMINGDALE — Upon entering Another Man’s Treasure, customers are greeted with a small table filled with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

From there, black arrows direct traffic one-way through stalls containing wooden furniture and vintage toys, eventually reaching the front counter, which has a small selection of snacks available for purchase.

While state regulations were updated Friday to allow for some retail businesses in Kennebec County to open on Monday, the antiques and vintage mall on Maine Avenue was open for business Friday. Previously, a reopening plan from Gov. Janet Mills for reopening businesses in the state would not have allowed retail shops to potentially open until June.

Before Friday’s update, the Farmingdale shop’s owners — like antique shop owners in Hallowell and Augusta — said they think their shops should be allowed to open if they follow safety guidelines.

Only eight customers are allowed in the shop, according to Another Man’s Treasure co-owner Kerry Halterman, who said he felt the store was following Center for Disease Control regulations.

“We don’t feel like we’re in noncompliance of CDC guidelines and Gov. Mills’ edict of essential businesses,” he said. “I personally think that the restrictions should be totally lifted.”

Halterman said his store could face a fine and he could face jail time after Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office deputies delivered a letter detailing his shop’s noncompliance Thursday.

Kennebec County Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Read confirmed that deputies did “present a letter from the Attorney General’s Office to Another Man’s Treasure in Farmingdale to make them aware of the executive order.”

“If there is a violation of the executive order that will be up to the Attorney General’s Office to determine, and any enforcement action would also be an administrative action on the part of the Attorney General’s Office,” Read said, adding that this was the first time the sheriff’s office had delivered a letter to any business.

Halterman said business partner Marcia Moore is now seeking clarification from the state on the business’s ability to open, as they also sell snacks.

On May 1, Another Man’s Treasure opened for normal traffic. That was the same day a selection of businesses — like hair salons and golf courses — were allowed to open under the first phase of Mills’ reopening plan. Halterman and Moore said they were following guidelines from the CDC and other guidelines set forth for other businesses that are explicitly allowed to reopen.

Katie Foye, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said early Friday that antique shops did not fall under guidelines for businesses that could reopen, unless they could offer “curbside pickup through online or phone sales.”

Mills’ spokesperson, Lindsay Crete, was not available for comment Thursday or Friday.

Moore said the company that operates Another Man’s Treasure has a license to sell food, which may allow it to open like other businesses that sell food. She said she would shut down if the state ordered the business to close, but resisted the notion that antique stores should not be allowed to open, especially because now is the “height of their business.”

“I don’t think they should do that,” Moore said. “It’s really going to devastate us with our ability to stay viable going forward. We do the bulk of our business (between) income tax season and when the tourists go home.”

Halterman, 66, said he spent three or four hours setting up a traffic flow and stations offering personal protective equipment before opening last week. He said he is often in company with people who have suppressed immune systems and the decision to open was made with that in mind.

Halterman said he thought only the sick and elderly should have been quarantined as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and said Gov. Mills’ reopening plan has “no rhyme or reason or thought process” behind it.

Moore said it was unclear how some businesses are dubbed essential over other businesses. She said she should be able to open if the appliance store across the street from her and a coffee shop down the street could be.

“We have a huge store compared to these mom-and-pop gas station places,” she said. “When she came out with the plan, hairdressers can be open, but retail should be closed?”

A sign board outside U.S. Route 202 Antiques & Flea Market in Winthrop notes that the business is closed. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Just north on U.S. Route 201, the Hallowell Antique Mall was closed just after 10 a.m. Friday, despite opening up on May 1 with a plexiglass barrier in front of the cash register. Owner Mercedes Knee said the Hallowell Police Department asked her to shut down Thursday.

Hallowell police Sgt. Jordan Gaudet confirmed that an officer informed her of the executive order and the business was voluntarily closed.

Knee said Friday that she felt the restrictions preventing her from opening were “unfair,” considering that her business was selling necessary household goods along with antiques.

“I don’t think a liquor store is essential, I don’t think marijuana stores are essential,” she said. “We certainly furnish the same (amount of) necessities as the Dollar Tree.”

Knee said a large portion of her customers were buying desks before she closed her doors to the public. After she closed, she assisted some customers by taking photos of products and running out to the parking lot to show customers what was for sale. Knee said this approach is unsustainable.

“I was willing to do it, but that’s ridiculous,” she said. “It doesn’t cut paying the bills.”

Knee said she was going to fill out a form that could eventually give her business the ability to open. If hers and other shops can’t reopen, she feared for the state’s economy when the winter rolls around and businesses couldn’t save money from the summer.

“Maine just doesn’t have people or an economy … if we don’t get that summer money,” Knee said. “I love what I do … but I watch every penny. It’s just going to be a disaster.”

Later Friday, when she heard about the reopening plan update, Knee said the new May 11 timeline was “great news” compared to earlier regulations.

Lisa Lagrange, co-owner of Jellison Traders on Riverside Drive in Augusta, said her business has been closed to prevent her family, who live in an on-site apartment at the antique shop property, from becoming sick. She said the business closed a couple of days before the governor’s mandate came down.

Lagrange said her business will feel the strain of event cancellations, like antique fairs, which give a large revenue boost to the brick-and-mortar business. She said the restrictions could probably include more businesses, including those like antique shops that are often in larger buildings and space.

“If I opened my doors and put up the plexiglass, I don’t have a stampede of people through here,” she said. “On a busy Saturday, there are 10 people here at once, but I have 5,000 square feet. They could probably police themselves quite well, but it’s hard when your government is trying to hurry and help, and they don’t necessarily have access to all the information (available).”

Lagrange said she was not going to open for May 11, opting to “ease back into things slowly.” Lagrange said changes are “likely a great decision for many businesses.”

“While I can see that this is a good move for many small businesses in ‘rural’ counties, we are not prepared to open May 11,” she sad. “We would be able to accommodate some of the safety guidelines suggestions, but we are not able to with others.”

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