Friday, June 23, 2017

How Well Do You Know Your Social Security Benefit? By Edward Jones Financial

Recent survey highlights misconceptions

Today, 88% of Americans age 65 and above receive Social Security benefits and this income keeps approximately one-third out of poverty. More than one third of the future Social Security beneficiaries (ages 45-64) questioned in a recent AARP® / Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) survey* expect their benefit to make up more than half of their retirement income. And, that same survey showed that the many rules and intricacies of this program may not be well understood, and these misconceptions could have a significant dollars and cents impact for those same respondents.

Social Security may play a major role during your retirement years. How does your knowledge rank? The answer may surprise you. Ultimately, understanding the role of your Social Security benefit in your retirement income strategy can help you to prepare for what lies ahead. But thankfully, there are steps you can take now to educate yourself about your Social Security benefit choices which lie ahead as well as the impact of those decisions on your loved ones.

It is important for you to work with the Social Security Administration for a full discussion of your available benefits and options. Work with your financial advisor to position your income needs throughout retirement.

Business Spotlight: Maine Roots Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine by Michelle Libby

When most people hear the word acupuncture there is a moment of hesitation. Isn’t that needles? At Maine Roots Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, owned and run by Kimberly Bickford, LAc.DiPL.O.M., professionalism and education are combined with Chinese medicine that has been used successfully for hundreds of years. 
“Acupuncture is used when the chi is out of alignment to help the body fix itself. It redirects the chi and blood flow to areas that need to be corrected. The body is really incredible at healing itself,” Bickford said. Through the use of thin, hair like needles, she is able to help correct issues her patients are having. 

“The body almost opens up for it, instead of slicing and cutting,” she said. The needles are very different than the ones used in a doctor’s office. 

Bickford works out of Raymond RediCare, 1278 Roosevelt Trail in Raymond, and has been there since last October. “I love it here,” she said. She has been treating patients for four years.
“In the military I broke my back,” she said. She tried acupuncture treatments because she wanted to be able to ride her horse again. After five treatments, she was back on her horse. Her back issue is completely resolved and only occasionally does she need touch ups if it gets reinjured.
In her practice she treats a lot of pain, Bell’s palsy, gynecological issues like infertility, digestive issues, Crohn’s Disease, IBS and heartburn. It is also effective for seasonal allergies, stress and anxiety. 

“It’s starting to become a little more popular,” she said of the treatments. In addition to acupuncture, she also does cupping, Qi-Gong and Gua Sha on injuries. 

Bickford has an undergraduate degree in professional holistic development and two master’s degrees in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. 

In the herbal component to the practice, Bickford combines formulas from 487 single herbs that have been around for 200 years and modifies the blend for each person. It can be a pill form or granules, depending on what she is treating. The tinctures and herbs are sent from a manufacturing plant before given to the patients. 

Bickford recommends the acupuncture first and then try herbs if that isn’t effective.
“The benefits of acupuncture are so wonderful. I think putting more things in the body isn’t necessary,” she said.  

The intake process lasts approximately an hour and a half to two hours to help her create a plan to treat the whole person. By looking at the tongue or palpating pulses, she can create a treatment plan for each individual. 

“With Chinese medicine, there’s no typical…everyone is different,” she said. The treatment varies
with each person being seen. “Acupuncture is very good at keeping people healthy,” she added. “It’s preventative medicine.”  

“Everybody can benefit,” Bickford said. “It’s really not as scary as it seems.”  She has worked on over 100 patients. Some feel better with one treatment; others require a few to get the energy moving. The typical patient is better in 10 treatments or fewer. With a diagnosis of stress, the patient may need a few more treatments when new issues arise. 

“Eighty percent of people fall asleep on the table, which allows their body to do what it needs to do,” she said. 

Her advice is “come in”. She’s had many patients who said they don’t like needles. 

“I determine the fear level and work with that,” she said. Most people leave saying, “That was so relaxing” or “who thought getting stuck with needles could be so relaxing.” 

She does not treat patients with seizure disorders. However herbal medicine can work for those patients. “I'm also careful with patients on blood thinners.” 

Maine Roots Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine accepts a lot of insurances including Workers Compensation, Harvard Pilgrim, Anthem, Aetna and Cigna. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 312-4237, email or visit

Friday, June 16, 2017

Business Spotlight: Mary Jane’s Smoke House by Michelle Libby

Entrepreneur Karl Butterfield from Raymond has had many businesses during his 11 years in Maine. In October 2016, he answered a call from the Standish community and opened Mary Jane’s Smoke House at 140 Ossipee Trail. 
“People in the community wanted me. I get a lot of nice people in here,” Butterfield said. Mary Jane’s Smoke House carries different types of glassware for medical and recreational marijuana. He does not sell marijuana as it is not legal to sell it until 2018. 

Most of his customers use medical cannabis for pain, he said. He doesn’t judge his customers and is free with his advice and education of what he sells. “Who knows, maybe I’ll need it for that someday,” he said. “They say it helps absolutely. I learn a lot from my customers every day.”  He estimates that 90 percent of people in the area smoke pot. The more accessible it is the more comfortable people are with coming into his shop. 

When he first opened, people would leave their cars running, quickly come in the shop, buy what they wanted, jump back in their car and speed off. Now people feel more relaxed about entering the store and browsing. 

A lot of his customers are caregivers from the area. The shop carries glass cleaner, rolling papers, flavored rolling papers, grinders, scales, water pipes, bubblers, bongs and oil rigs. He also carries metal, glass, and wooden pipes in all shapes and sizes. Many of the products are brought in from Colorado or California, he said.

“If things aren’t right, I make it right,” he said. “I give the best service I can give them and give them the best product I can.” 

Mary Jane’s Smoke House does not sell tobacco because there’s too much competition, but Butterfield does have a tobacco license.
Standish has been very business friendly, said Butterfield. They let him do his business without issues from the town. 

Customers must be 18 and older to purchase items from Mary Jane’s Smoke House. Butterfield is very easy going, but he follows the law. 

The store is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

Find more on the website at or find them on Facebook. Butterfield answers Facebook messages and people can also call the store at 642-1012.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Business Spotlight: Mulberry Farms by Michelle Libby is much more than planting something in the ground and watching it grow or caring for animals. At Mulberry Farms on North Raymond Road in Raymond, sandwiched between Gray and Poland, owners Farmer Frank Pecoraro and his wife Debbie, have a passion for providing good food to the community and educating them on where their food is coming from. 
“We wanted to provide good food to our family, kids and the whole community. It’s good food you can count on. We’re not as confident in the food distribution as we were in the past,” said Farmer Frank, who has spent most of his life in the food industry. 

Food at grocery stores is generally chosen because it travels well, and because it travels well it doesn’t taste as good, Farmer Frank explained. 

Mulberry Farms is an all organic farm, using natural ingredients to enrich the soil and help retain micronutrients and minerals that are native to Maine soil. As stewards of the land, the Pecoraros do everything they can to protect the property by rotating crops and fields when necessary. They use no pesticides and leave fields farrow occasionally. They admit they will never get rich from farming, but for them it’s more than making money, it’s making a difference. 

“It’s about giving back to the community,” said Farmer Frank, as he is referred to on social media and by everyone he knows. 

Farmer Frank, his wife Debbie and son Mike
Mulberry Farms has a farm stand on North Raymond Road where they sell their produce and other local products like honey and maple syrup. They have seen women fight over the last cantaloupe in the store, and others return moments after they left to buy another box of berries to actually bring home because they ate the first one they bought. 

There are U-Pick strawberries, high bush blueberries and raspberries. They grow cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces, squash and so many more vegetables. This year they officially rolled out a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where 77 families bought a basket of produce a week for 16 weeks. Farmer Frank describes the program as giving the community a chance to become invested in the farm. When the crops grow well, the CSA baskets contain more food, when the crops don’t do as well the CSA members might not get as much. 

“They’re sharing in the pain or sharing in the gain of the farm,” said Farmer Frank.
The CSA is partly about education. Through a newsletter, the CSA members are educated on everything from fertilizer to crop rotation. “It’s kind of a complete experience,” Farmer Frank said. Fresh vegetables are getting kids hooked on the taste of the food. Whether it’s snap peas or carrots, there will be a vegetable that will be the “gateway vegetable” to the rest of them. 

The farm sells product to RSU14, Good Life Market in Raymond, Future Foods in Mechanic Falls and Shop & Save in Gray. They also deliver to 10 to 14 summer camps in the area.
Only 11 acres of the farm is used to grow produce. Two hundred and forty acres are in a farmland trust meaning that they can never be developed. The Edwards family requested that as part of the purchase. 

Those from the area remember the property as the Edward’s Farm. Carlton Edwards dedicated many years to the Town of Raymond in public service, said Farmer Frank. 

Farming isn’t all about the vegetables, but also the paperwork that Farmer Frank and Debbie have to do to earn the organic seal from Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and to keep their plantings on schedule. 

“Today’s farmers are significantly more literate. They’re smarter and clever. You have to be a mini CEO to be a farmer,” said Farmer Frank. 

The biggest challenge to owning a farm is, “the weather. You can’t do anything about it,” said Debbie. “It’s not just seeds and tractors.” 

The best part is giving back to the community and working with a network of farmers who are very willing to give their knowledge to the new folks on the farm. 

For more about Mulberry Farms, visit , find them on Facebook and Instagram or call 207-317-1101. Starting June 15th the farm stand is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on the weekend from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Business Spotlight: Star Nails by Michelle Libby Nails, an award winning nail salon in Windham, is constantly looking for ways to improve and enhance the experience for their customers. Keeping current on styles and trends is only part of what owner Quang Nguyen has done to keep his salon competitive. 
“Quality, value, cleanliness of the place,” is how Nguyen described Star Nails. “It’s a friendly environment where they get treated like they’re family.”

At the beginning of the year Star Nails renovated putting in new flooring, seven new pedicure chairs, updated technology and modernized the salon with new furniture. With an eye toward safety and cleanliness, the new pedicure chairs have a liner in each bowl so that the water is not contaminated by a previous guest. 

“It makes me feel better to sell to clients $2 extra for the price of a pedicure. Customers can see the value on it,” said Nguyen. 

Star Nails has been providing great service to customers for years. Recently it has added chemical free polish and powdered nail polish called dipping powder, which doesn’t chip or peel off. “It makes nail bed healthier because of the formula,” said Nguyen. The newest technique is ombre, which is the merging between two colors and a look called marbling.  

“We watch new product videos every week, and then help each other learn new techniques. We can’t have everything out there, but we keep it reasonable to make it worthwhile for us and the customers,” Nguyen said. 

A 50- minute reflexology and pedicure treatment can have health benefits, he said. In the summer many people look to get a pedicure every two or three weeks to feel better and make their nails healthier. 

“In the summer people are tired of the long winter,” he said. They schedule appointments to get their feet in shape for sandal season. There is a summer special running now, a manicure and pedicure for $40. 

Quality work is important to all of the employees at Star Nails. They want their customers to leave happy and ready to show off their nails. If there is an issue, the employees and Nguyen communicate with the clients and stay on top of it until the customer is happy. 

“We expect that we make mistakes sometimes, but we fix it,” he said. 

In addition to manicures and pedicures, Star Nails offers acrylic nails and waxing for eyebrows and bikini areas. Nguyen is also planning on having an organic pedicure option with natural herbs, lotions and organic polish with no chemicals involved. 

Manicures can help make people more confident especially when they are in public speaking, said Nguyen. 

Clients return to Star Nails from their homes in Bridgton, Casco, Raymond, Westbrook and even Florida to be pampered. “It’s a positive surprise when they see what we’ve done. They see the value.”
Star Nails donates to different causes and events to be a part of the community, Nguyen said. “We do it because people who come here are local.” 

Nguyen is happy that he is able to create jobs and opportunities for his family. In Vietnam his relatives might earn $100 a month, but here they can learn a trade and send money home to Vietnam. They are not a burden on American society. “It makes me feel good,” he said. “Ten years ago, I didn’t speak English and now I’m creating jobs, working and supporting each other. It helps the whole family.”  The work they do supports the community they come from. Nguyen’s cousin, Jo Vo, is the manager of the salon. 

Star Nails is located at 864 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are preferred. Wait times can be longer in the summer as more people are coming in for appointments. 

Star Nails is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last walk in appointment is at 6:30 p.m. For more on Windham Star Nails, find them on Facebook, or call for an appointment at 207-892-7799.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Business Spotlight: Cherries on Top by Michelle Libby deserves to have ice cream and at Cherries On Top, Ingrid Fockler does everything she can to make sure that she has choices for all ice cream desires.

Fockler bought Cherries On Top last September. Since then she has been dreaming about the shop at 1252 Roosevelt Trail in Raymond. As a 911 dispatcher, she was constantly dealing with people on their worst days. 

“Now I’m not dealing with death and heartbreak every day. You need a little bit of sunshine in your life,” she said. Fockler’s goal is to make the shop personable and have good customer service above all else.  

Cherries On Top sells Annabelle’s hard serve ice cream, which is all natural, kosher, gluten free, with no additives or artificial colors and only 16 percent butterfat. They also have some Hershey’s flavors like: cotton candy, bubble gum, and chocolate and vanilla moose tracks. For a true taste of Maine there will be blueberry ice cream as well. 

“When I got into ice cream, I didn’t realize there were different kinds,” Fockler said.  

One of the bestselling ice cream products is the soft serve that has 30 flavors. The soft serve frozen yogurt is low in sugar and glycemic index as well as gluten free. It also has very few calories. 

They brought Nanci’s Frozen Yogurt to Cherries On Top because it is extra smooth and creamy and tastes like traditional soft serve ice cream but with all the benefits of frozen yogurt. It even contains probiotics and is safe for most people sensitive to lactose. One topping of choice can be mixed in with the cones. No more sprinkles falling all over the car. 

“It’s good for diabetics. One person told me, it’s been 15 years since they had black raspberry soft serve,” Fockler said. Some of the most popular flavors are: peanut butter, pina-colada, pumpkin pie, expresso coffee, salted caramel, triple chocolate and graham central station- which consists of graham cracker ice cream, graham crackers and chocolate covered pretzels. Customers are invited to call ahead for pre-packaged pints and quarts of soft serve and hard serve ice cream.  

“What kid should grow up not having ice cream? It’s for everyone,” said Fockler. They have very good procedures in place to avoid cross contamination, but there are nuts in the shop, she warned.

They offer cake cones, sugar cones, waffle cones and waffle bowls. They also make frappes, smoothies and of course, banana splits. They also make fresh java frappes, made with Coffee by Design coffee.  They also sell a cherry bomb, which is crushed ice with a Red Bull.  

“I’ve learned about food, you have to make it pretty,” she said. She does her best to give everything a special look or design. “It’s like art.” 

Cherries On Top doesn’t stop with ice cream. They also offer red and blonde hot dogs, fluff-a-nutter sandwiches and have plans to expand to homemade baked goods and possibly pizza.  

The shop has had a lot of support from locals and surrounding areas like South Portland, Auburn and Gray. Cherries On Top has six employees and they are accepting applications for older high schoolers or graduates. There is also outdoor seating. 

Once school is out, the hours at Cherries On Top will be noon to 9 p.m. For now, the hours are Wednesday and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information and to find out what’s new, visit or call 207-655-6437. You can also find them on Facebook where you can read five star reviews on why their ice cream and frozen yogurt is so amazing.  <

Friday, May 19, 2017

Business Spotlight Northstar Mortgage by Michelle Libby a mortgage can be full of stress and anxiety, but at Northstar Mortgage, home buyers can relax and know they are in great hands with any of the eight loan officers, who will find the best mortgage package with a low rate for their residential clients. 
“You’re making your largest investment. You want to be talking to someone local, going to the same school you are, seeing them at sporting events,” said co-owner Jason Gagnon. “I don’t know why you’d want to shop elsewhere.”  

Northstar Mortgage handles purchases, refinancing, VA loans for Veterans and reverse mortgages, which have gotten a bad reputation, but are working for many of their clients. Northstar Mortgage offers a simplified and local option for those who don’t like to work with strangers and deal with companies that are difficult to reach. 

“Our loan officers give out their personal cell phone numbers and are available 24 hours a day. Home buying is stressful enough,” said Jason. There’s no 800 number and they don’t mind answering questions about mortgages or the process. “From beginning to end, no one is a number when they work with us,” he said. 

In 2005, Leigh Gagnon opened Northstar Mortgage. The company has evolved over the years with Leigh bringing on her husband Jason Gagnon as co-owner. In the last year, Northstar Mortgage has grown to include an office in Auburn, at the Great Falls Plaza, and taking clients in the Brunswick and Topsham areas with a dedicated officer, Seth Jacobs, for those homebuyers. 

“Every person we hire gives the same level of customer service we expect,” said Jason. He and Leigh have handpicked loan officers who fit with the company, and not hiring someone just to fill desks. “Our reputation is everything to us.” 

The newest loan officer is Danielle Stumper, who is located in the Northstar Mortgage office at the new home of Landing Real Estate on Tandberg Trail in Windham.
The corporate office is at 8 Turning Leaf Drive. 

The company works with a host of real estate agents from a variety of agencies. They are known for getting the loan done on time or ahead of schedule. “We close on loans on a continual basis under 20 days. We close very quickly,” said Jason. The reason they can do that is because one loan officer handles a case from start to finish. Files are not passed around to different officers who need to get updated on the specific case. They can also get a pre-qualification letter within an hour in some cases.

Leigh and Jason pride themselves on being family owned and operated, and are proud of the fact that they have almost doubled in size. The other loan officers are Kate Virgie, Ian Bushover and Dan Pike. Jennifer Giroux was hired recently as the administrative assistant to the loan officers. 

“We are thankful to the people in Windham. They look local, as opposed to going to the big banks,” said Jason. “It’s awesome to help people in your community find a house. We love being able to do that. Windham, Maine is a small community. Almost everyone is referred to us by someone who has worked with us in the past.”

Northstar Mortgage closed on 300 transactions last year. “The reason we were able to do that is that we understand the mortgage process is daunting. Getting a loan is not as far out of reach as they may think,” Jason said. Clients who come to Northstar Mortgage with low credit scores can work with them to put together a six month plan to get buyers into the market. “We look at every person’s situation and how they can purchase the home,” said Jason. 

Northstar is capturing many of the millennials who are getting into the housing market. With digital technology, forms can be signed electronically and emails work just as well as face to face meetings.
“You don’t have to be looking for your forever home to get into the market right now,” Jason said.
“Everyone knows we’re here for our community. We’re excited to help them on their largest purchase,” said Jason. “A home is always a solid investment.” 

For more information on Northstar Mortgage, visit or call 207-893-8499. Homebuyers can apply at the website with the online application. They also encourage people to stop by the office.