|Gears left when the Mills moved away|
Maine is a beautiful state that is sparsely populated and performs the necessary duty of a cornerstone state. The border is shared by the self proclaimed "Live Free or Die" folks from New Hampshire to the west and those wacky Canadians up north of us. To the east, a convoluted rocky coastline of 3500 miles keeps the Atlantic ocean at bay. There were at last count, 1.33 million people living in an area of 35,385 square miles, or about 43 people per square mile. Most of the people here live in the lower third of the state, giving us Mainers a wonderfully wild and gorgeous state to call home.
But this is not about Maine. This about a town much maligned over the years that has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and has finally re-defined itself.
Sanford is a small town that has proven itself a survivor, regardless of the bad rap it gets from those high pocket towns on the coast or at the bottom of ski slopes up country. Sanford, from the very beginning, was a blue collar mill community. The Mousam river offered readily available power to numerous mills as far back as the mid 1700's. In the mid 1800's, Sanford began to flourish when the Goodall's opened their first textile mill. For the next century, Sanford was a key producer of the cloth that America used and exported.
In the mid 1960's, the textile industry packed its things and moved south. After a decade in Dixie, Textiles once again packed their bags and moved to foreign shores, never to come back again. Sanford has rebounded, but it took a half century. Now it hosts small manufacturing efforts and serves as a bedroom community for Portland and parts south. The Mousam River still runs through it, only now it is cleaner with less diversion than it had when the town's thousand looms were running 24/7.
I am a self employed small retailer in Springvale, a small village that is part of Sanford. My bike shop is situated only 8 miles from my home in nearby Acton. Owning an independent brick and mortar operation on Main Street anywhere in America is a tough row to hoe. In a community where mid income is something to envy, it is a very tough roe to hoe.
I could have located my shop closer to the money that flows up and down the Maine Turnpike. It would have certainly meant more chinga ching in the till. But I don't own a bike shop to make money so much as I own a bike shop because I enjoy providing a service for the good people who live around me.
Money is important, but it has never been my prime motivator. I derive enjoyment, fulfillment if you will, in the act of labor. Money is a reward, but no less important is the pleasure I get when I can make someone's day by servicing their bike, providing information, or just being there to hear what is happening in their lives at that moment.
Over the years Sanford has earned my loyalty and my respect by its tenacity and refusal to go away. It has, like any community, institutionalized madness that drives me crazy sometimes. But at its heart, the movers and shakers are good people who constantly look to improve the lot of Sanford's citizenry. Any small part I can have in that effort is what makes me continue to open my doors.