PRESQUE ISLE – The red shopping carts were out as hundreds of northern Mainers caught their first glimpse of the offerings inside the new Lowe’s home improvement store on Maysville Street.
The 147,000-square-foot superstore, owned by the world’s second largest home improvement retailer, is the latest to open in Maine. The company has stores in Auburn, Brunswick, North Windham and Portland, and another opening soon in Biddeford.
Lowe’s Companies Inc., based in Mooresville, N.C., with sales of $43.2 billion in fiscal year 2005, has 1,275 stores in 49 states.
In Presque Isle Sunday, people were waiting in a long line at the store entrance for the employee and local dignitary grand opening preview, which began at 4 p.m.
Store officials will hold a similar preview for commercial customers today. The store will be open to the public on Tuesday, and a grand opening celebration will take place on Thursday.
Rodney Wohlford, Lowe’s store manager, said store officials were overwhelmed by the Sunday turnout. He said they had expected about 150 people, but ended up with more than 500 coming through the doors.
“We’re excited to be here and be open,” Wohlford said. “We’re glad to be in Aroostook County and give them an alternative place to shop. Competition is good for the customer – the customer always wins when there’s competition.”
The store, which employees have stocked with more than 32,000 items, features 102,000 square feet of retail space and an adjacent 23,000-square-foot garden center.
The store has a total of about 130 full- and part-time workers. Wohlford said 95 percent of employees, including management, are from Aroostook County.
He said the store also features wide aisles, a low price guarantee, and a relaxing atmosphere where customers are invited to take a seat if they need a rest.
To mark the event, officials held a board cutting – instead of a ribbon cutting – ceremony, and made two check presentations. They donated $500 each to the Presque Isle Police Department and the Presque Isle Fire Department.
Throughout the event, crowds were wending their way through the seasonal area that was filled with Christmas decorations, opening drawers and cupboards in the kitchen display area, and craning their necks to check out the fixtures in the lighting aisle.
Darrell and Theresa Nicholson of Caribou said they were very excited to see the new store open.
“We are absolutely thrilled to death,” Theresa Nicholson said. “We’re restoring a house and now we don’t have to go to Bangor anymore.”
She said they’re “fussy” about what they buy for their restorations, but that they like the selection they’ve seen so far. Darrell Nicholson said the two have restored homes and barns as a hobby for the past 11 years.
“This is going to be very convenient,” he said. “If I need a plumbing part, now I don’t have to wait.”