Titi Thompson, left, assists Lillian Barnett on Thursday at Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce in Auburn. Blackie’s expansion is almost complete, and owner Matt Manson and the city are working on a grand opening. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

It’s been just over a year since construction began at Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce in Auburn. Matt Manson says the final touches are expected to wrap up in the next few weeks, however, the much bigger doors are open for business at 966 Minot Ave.

If you have not been by recently, you should stop in to see Manson’s vision come to life. There is more local produce, more local meats and cheeses, and even more coming to fill what seems like a huge space in comparison. There’s even more parking.

“Everybody’s super excited,” Manson said Thursday as customers came in and out. “We took a good thing and made it better.” The response from customers he describes as “super positive.”

Blackie’s was awarded $35,000 from the city of Auburn last year as part of a pilot program to bring back neighborhood markets by former Mayor Jason Levesque. That money went to new refrigeration units, which are all over the place. But the city did not finance all of the expansion, which Manson partly designed to help accommodate all the produce coming from his 30-acre farm down the road.

Zach Maher, Auburn Deputy Director of Business and Community Development, said it was a small, one-time project with a total budget of $150,000 that was awarded in grants of up to $35,000 to five local businesses — Blackie’s, Wheelers Market, J&H Variety, Gowell’s Variety and Roy’s Foodland.

But Maher said there are no funds to continue the program after these projects are finished. “We are always working on new community and economic incentive programs as we identify possible funding sources,” he added.


Matt Manson of Minot stands Thursday in his business, Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce, on Minot Avenue in Auburn. Blackie’s expansion is almost complete, and Manson and the city are working on a grand opening. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Manson and the city are working on a grand opening, but regulars don’t seem to have missed a beat.

The expansion appears to have more than doubled the retail floor space, and there is also more room you can’t readily see for the wholesale operations.

The emphasis at Blackie’s is local and Maine, augmented in the off-season with regional and national products. Locally grown products are labeled “native” and have bright pink signs and are separated from nonlocal produce.

So far, the weather is cooperating this year allowing Blackie’s farm to plant a few weeks earlier than last year and some produce is already being harvested such as Swiss chard.

“We do something a little different than the grocery store and other places,” Manson said, beaming with pride at his newly expanded farm store.

An excavator helps May 22 to demolish the basement walls of the former Dunkin’ donut shop at 321 Main St. in Lewiston. the site will become the home of a cPort Credit Union branch next summer. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

cPort Credit Union to open branch in Lewiston


The Buzz can confirm that cPort Credit Union is coming to Lewiston. Chief Executive Officer Gene Ardito said Tuesday that they’ve been considering a move to Lewiston for some time and they purchased the former Dunkin’ donuts property at 321 Main St. about two months ago.

The building has been demolished and cPort hopes to break ground later this summer and projects opening its new branch in the summer of 2025.

“I’m excited,” Ardito said about the location, which he noted is on a busy street across from Central Maine Medical Center. It’s an “urban setting, walkable and connected to the immigrant population,” he said.

Ardito said they have a number of members in the community who have to travel to Portland to do their banking.

cPort has chosen Platz Associates as the architect and Hebert Construction as its primary contractor, adding they plan on hiring local subcontractors. The new branch’s design is still being developed, but Ardito said it will have a drive-through, full-service lobby banking and the credit union will integrate some new technology for customers as an option to traditional banking.

cPort was founded in 1931 as the Federal Employees Credit Union of Maine in Augusta and is believed to be the oldest credit union in the state. It has branches in Portland, Scarborough and Augusta.


Ardito emphasized the decision to choose this location fits into cPort’s approach to community banking, which he said has a diverse membership and employees with the ability to speak multiple languages.

“We wouldn’t come to Lewiston if we didn’t feel we had something to offer (the community),” he said.

Dan Cunliffe II, right, and his parents, Dan and Dorothy, stand Thursday in Republic Jewelry & Collectibles in Auburn. The father and son team are marking 40 years of business this year. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Auburn’s Republic Jewelry & Collectibles is marking 40 years in business

The father and son team of Dan Cunliffe and Dan Cunliffe II at Republic Jewelry & Collectibles is marking 40 years in business this year. The elder Cunliffe left a well-paying job as a manager at Wonder Bread to take a chance on going it alone in the 1980s.

He started out selling coins out of a briefcase and soon had a table at the Lewiston Mall, expanding his line to include jewelry and then collectibles, which is the bread and butter of the business today.

It is a consistently busy storefront at 212 Center St., where it’s been since September of 1992.


“I look back and I wonder how that it all happened,” Cunliffe senior said Thursday. “If I had to start over again, I wouldn’t know how to do it.”

At 82, he still comes to work most days as does his wife, both of them born and raised in Lewiston.

The younger Cunliffe runs the day-to-day operations alongside Manager Chrissy Ames, who has been with the family business for 25 years. In all, the business employs 18 people and at least one other employee has been there 22 years.

Plans are in the works for a formal celebration of the anniversary later this summer and the collectible fans will want to pay attention to who is invited. More on that later.

The Buzz offers quick hits about trending area business happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact business writer Christopher Wheelock at 689-2817 or cwheelock@sunjournal.com

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