I was surprised to find out that the very outdoorsy Linda Dexter who has owned and operated Ecopelagicon for as long as I can remember used to navigate not the rivers and streams of some idyllic lake and mountain town, but rather the computer and paper trails in the corporate jungle.

“Oh, I was in the corporate world. Contracts administrator for a computer leasing company, and then in contracts for prime computer.”

Dexter, who grew up in Chelmsford, MA, always imagined moving to a place like Maine or Vermont. “I kind of knew I wanted to get out of Massachusetts. So, it’s just the way it turned out and I don’t regret any minute of it.”

The particular path that led out of town started with the suggestion of a longtime family friend, Steve Machias, whom she had been dating (now former husband), who made a life-changing suggestion to her one day.

“At one point he said to me, ‘You really ought to give up your corporate job and move up to Rangeley.’ I said, ‘Okay’” She laughed. “So, I did. I moved up here with him and then you know we started this store and had Sierra (their daughter).”

Machias wanted to open a nature store and Dexter was all in. ““It just sort of followed with the sort of things that he and I did together- hiking, paddling, etc. It fit our general lifestyle and philosophy.”


“We decided to give it a whirl and we opened up in 1993, the year Sierra was born. I was six months pregnant when we opened the doors. Sierra was born 3 months later in August and so the business is 29 years old. Sierra will be 29 in August. That’s one way to remember it, huh?

They decided that the store would stick closely to the theme of nature. She joked that for example, the store has always sold books, but not one Harry Potter. “Everything had to do with nature and the outdoors, and it still does, pretty much, you know. That was just kind of the baseline that we judged off of.”

Ecopelagicon in Oquossoc

Originally the store was located in Oquossoc, across the road from the old Gingerbread House restaurant, where Oquossoc Suites is.

“It was a lot that had an old Quonset hut, a metal building and we started there. We rented it from Bob and Jill Allen who used to own the Gingerbread House before Ed Kfoury owned it and did all the renovations.”

“We did two summers in the Quonset hut and then we moved into town, and we did two summers in the white house that’s right next to Allied Realty, on the right, across from Morton & Furbish Insurance.”

“And then we bought this place in ’95 from Joyce Blackwell. It used to be an old bottle redemption center here, and a woodworking shop. So, we bought that. It took us about a year and a half to gut the place and renovate, and here we are.”


“I’ve had a good time getting to know customers and it’s always fun to see the same faces come back.”

Not just a store, Ecopelagicon has been at the center of a bunch of community events. “Because I think the building is situated perfectly for the ice skating and Winterpaloozah and stuff like that and I just have a real knack for getting involved in things. (For better or worse)” She added jokingly.

Trailtown Festival Stephanie Chu-O’Neil

One event for example is the annual Trail Town Festival that started in 2012 when Rangeley officially became designated an Appalachian Trail Community. A once-a-year festival designed to acknowledge the trail, the event has grown over the years and is approaching its 10th anniversary.

Ecopelagicon is also the location for the free use of skates for skating on Haley Pond thanks to the Rangeley Skating Club. Hot chocolate and coffee are always available in the store during those times and there have been other such “Family Fun” nights that have wound up at the store’s doorstep.

“This past winter, Morton & Furbish (Vacation) Rentals and Saddleback joined in a sponsorship of the horse and wagon rides around the neighborhood, and I put out free hot chocolate and Greg Andrews of Snow Source, he’d light the fire and get out the marshmallows and put marshmallow sticks out there. “You know we just had our own little (Norman) Rockwell scene going here.”

By the time this article gets published Dexter will have officially retired and I asked her to reflect on how the face of Rangeley had changed because of her generous contributions. I likened it to my favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when Bailey gets to see what the world would have looked like in his absence. I mean, what would have happened if another house had been built at that location or if it had stayed a bottle redemption center. Or she could have just said no when asked to host the Trail Town Festival, or help with the Annual Pond Hockey Festival, etc.


“I guess you’re right. This store really is, being beside Haley Pond Park and it really is the right place for those kinds of things. It’s the right location.”

“I could have said no, but it’s just not in my nature, not to mention, I enjoy doing it. I mean, when people are happy and excited about skating and bonfires and just can’t believe that we do this, you know they’re so grateful and thrilled, it’s hard to be Scroogey about it. They’re having such a good time.”

While conducting the interview about 5 different types of customers came in. A woman wishing her well who had heard about upcoming retirement, a very polite young child purchasing a little treat, a young man returning paddling equipment and no surprise there was a question about the pronunciation and source of the name of the store.

The question has been asked so many times she placed the answer on the back of her business cards. “Steve made up the name actually. It comes from ‘ecology’ and ‘pelag’ which has to do with the deep sea and conservation.”

Proper pronunciation? I’ll give it a whirl: EEK-OH-PELL-AHDG-ICK-ON.

(Now say it fast three times and you’ll have a great summer!)


So now, after almost 30 years of owning and running Ecopelagicon, Dexter has decided to retire. “I’ve been running it for 22 years on my own, since 2000.”

“It’s just that time. I have been thinking about it for the last couple of years. I’m 68 years old. I wanted to slow down a bit, you know. It’s a lot of work. This is a lot of work. So, I just wanted to change things up and it was a good time to do it. You know, when you know, you know.”

She has come quite a way since the corporate world. “Yea, it’s the best office I’ve ever had. It’s quite a view.”

On further reflection she added. “So, I think that probably the biggest most important thing about this business was the friends I’ve made, just through the business and the fun activities. Like being involved in the canoe trail, and the AT and Pond Hockey and stuff like that. They’re all very satisfying. I mean busy as all get out, but positive. It was just fun to accomplish those things.

“I have made a lot of friends over the years that were originally just customers that came in. And of course, in Rangeley we have a lot of summer people that keep coming back and they keep coming in here and I’ve gotten to know them, and you know, I think that’s been the most fun and the thing I’m going to miss the most is not seeing everybody all the time.”

I asked her if she was able to go out and hike and paddle as much as she would have liked over the past three decades.


“No, I hardly ever had the time for that. Now, this year, I’m going to have the time for that. I’m going to make sure I get out and do those things because it’s just awfully hard when you’re a summer business and you’re relying on the summer people for the bulk of your revenue in July and August. Taking time to paddle just doesn’t happen. And it’s not that I didn’t take the time, it was just hard to take the time.

This summer is certainly going to be different for her, and luckily, also for Seth and Shelli Laliberte, the folks she was able to pass the torch to.

So, what does she think about the new owners?

She lit up with delight. “Oh my God. I am thrilled. You wouldn’t believe how thrilled I am. For me, this is the best-case scenario. Honest to God Stephanie, every day since I put this on the market, I’d just say to myself, ‘I’m going to find a buyer that wants to continue the business and love it and really remain a part of Rangeley. Because there’s a lot of retail that’s just kind of disappearing right now and if this disappeared it would hit the town and the impact, I think, would be negative. And so anyway, I just kept saying that every day. And sure enough as it turns out Seth and Shellie have wanted to do this sort of thing but weren’t going to open up their own business and compete. And when she found out I was selling she came right down and talked to me and said, ‘We’ve been wanting to do this’ and so it’s worked out perfectly.”

As far as retirement goes, she will be missed, but she deserves some catch up to enjoy the area as much as the vacationers.

“I will miss the people and I even liked hauling canoes way the heck up in the willywacks. That’s always kind of fun. (She joked). But I think I’m going to haul myself up in the willywacks and do some canoeing instead.” She laughed.


Proud new owners Seth and Shelli Laliberte and founder of Ecopelagicon Linda Dexter. Stephanie Chu-O’Neil

So, who are these new owners? Well, no strangers to the area, that’s for sure. Seth Laliberte is currently the principal of Rangeley Lakes Regional School (RLRS), and his wife Michelle Laliberte, more often known as “Shelli,” has been the kindergarten teacher at RLRS for over 20 years.

Outside of school they have always been avid outdoor enthusiasts and have dreamed of running such a place.

Shelli- “We’ve kind of always wanted to do something kind of like this.”

Seth- “Well, the first time we had the idea we were new to trail running and there was nowhere to get trail running stuff. So, we’re like, ‘Oh, let’s start a new trail running store in the basement. For me the guiding, (Seth is a licensed fish and recreation guide) and being outdoors and kind of being like a gear freak myself, I always thought it would be fun to be able to sell it and help people out.”

Shelli had also happily pondered about running a fun shop- “When I grew up, my grandparents owned a newspaper/Hallmark store, and I’ve always kind of loved the idea of that. I’d work, help her at her store, (my grandmother), stock the shelves and sometimes she’d let me behind the counter, run the cash register, and I just always loved it. So, it’s always been kind of a dream of mine as well.”

They were both pleasantly surprised when the opportunity to purchase the Ecopelagicon arose.


Shelli- “We always have gone in there and we love all of her products and we bought. We buy backpacks and our sleeping bags and stuff for hiking there and it’s just… yea, we’re very excited.”

So how long was this transference in the making?

Shelli- “We were sitting here over February vacation and saw online that it was for sale, and we just kind of joked ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be cool if… and then with some more talk and we thought, ‘Well, why don’t we just talk to Linda and see what she has to say.’ And so, we went down during February break and talked to her and that’s how that went, and here we are.”

Wait a second, this all transpired in 3 months?

“Yea, it moved pretty quick.”

Luckily, Dexter has and will be assisting for a smooth transition.


Shelli- “She’s been so helpful. She’s teaching us. She’s like our mentor. It’s a great set up.”

They’ve both assured me the store won’t be changing much at all. They’ll just be adding to it.

Shelli- “We’re taking over everything that’s still there and then we’ve just been getting new stuff to fill the shelves.”

With their educational background, and as parents of three children, it is no surprise that they are hoping to add some children’s programming in the future. However, that won’t be for a while. Right now, they just must get used to balancing the school year with the summer’s off, which will now be summer’s on for the shop.

So how happy are the kids about this? Shelli- “They’re really excited. Eben’s going to help us this summer. He’ll be doing a lot with the boats.”

Daughter’s Mya and Brooke had already committed to other summer jobs but will help when they can.


Oldest Mya will have graduated from high school as of this summer and so it should be a really memorable time for the whole family.

Seth- “It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time.”

Shelli- “We’ve had a lot of people helping us. Giving us suggestions. It’s been a really nice experience.”

SETH- “We’re super excited and we thank Linda for creating what she created that we can try to keep it going and make it our own too.”

SHELLI- “We have big shoes to fill but we’re excited to try.”

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