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Agren contracts locally on eve of opening
NORWAY — As family-owned retailer Agren Appliances moves forward with opening-day preparations, one benefit to the local economy has already been seen.
Rather than go with out-of-state contractors, unlike big-box store retailers, Agren has hired mostly local people to renovate the Main Street storefront to suit the company's needs.
"We want to use all local people as much as possible," said owner Jason Agren, who hopes to open the location's doors on December 20, or soon thereafter.
Case in point: Scott Proctor of Proctor Wood Floors and a South paris resident, has been pouring his effort into buffing decades of use out of the showroom's elderly maple floorboards.
Proctor is "redoing and refinishing that gorgeous wood floor for me, which is a big job," said Agren.
Using a person like Proctor puts money in the local economy, but it also has other benefits, for all involved.
Though Proctor didn't install the original floorboards in what was formerly Main Street Furniture, he knows the mill that made them, and has an appreciation for their history.
Proctor has other incentives to pour his heart into his work. He is likely to shop in the store himself, and many of his potential customers will see the floor in Agren Appliances, and judge him by the quality of that work.
"He's done a beautiful job," said Garry Marston, incoming store manager. "And I know he's had to work really hard to get it done, too."
Agren also hired area resident Jack Moore, the man who has maintained the building's boiler in the past, to work on the boiler.
The company will use Bolsters, another local company, to do new carpeting in the store's upper and lower-level showrooms.
One sort-of exception is the use of Marquis Signs, a Lewiston-based sign company, to install the blue and yellow storefront sign.
"With the exception of a couple of guys that I've used at all of my locations, I tried to keep the money in the local community by buying local," said Agren.
Still, that's a Maine business and could be considered, at worst, semi-local.
Marston says that he sees the store fitting into a small-town shopping experience that recalls memories of days gone by.
While he concedes that the raw quantity of drive-by traffic will be smaller than the store's previous location, he says that the quality of the walk-by traffic will more than make up for it.
"People will be walking down the street, doing their shopping in the different stores, maybe getting a slice of pizza, and they will make us a part of that shopping experience," said Marston.
That shopping experience is embodied in Agren Appliance's business model, which emphasizes an old-school service component that is sorely missing in a larger, anonymous competitor.
"We have a let's-take-care-of-our-customer mentality," said Marston.
Marston says that Agren offers an unusual type of warranty, which is refunded to the buyer when it is not utilized. If Agren delivers an item to a customer, the delivery staff will unpack, install, and set up the item.
In addition to serving as an anchor store for other businesses in the area, the presence of Agren Appliances will have yet another ripple effect on the local economy.
The previous location in Paris was sometimes staffed by only one full-time employee. The Norway location will have roughly triple the amount of inventory, including a new furniture line, and will be staffed by three full-timers.
Those three people will be spending their days on Main Street themselves, which promises to continue a long tradition of reciprocal patronage.
"I'll probably get most of my lunches at Ari's," said Marston. "He's been a customer of ours, and so I'd like to be a customer of his."
FLAGSHIP — Scott Proctor works to finish the maple flooring of the new Agren Appliances location. With three large levels, the storefront will carry more appliances, furniture, and bedding than any of the other five Agren stores, and may soon be considered the chain's flagship location.