Sunday, June 28, 2015

Business spotlight - Pyro City - By Michelle Libby

The colorful packaging and clever names are only a fraction of the enjoyment of fireworks. Steve Marson, owner of six Pyro City locations including Windham, wants to make sure that people can celebrate any occasion with fireworks safely and respectfully, putting on a show for their friends and family that will make memories for years to come. 
The Windham Pyro City is celebrating its one year anniversary this week. “It took a couple of years, looking for the right location on 302,” said Marson. “I didn’t want to build a building, so we did a lease with the option to buy. It’s been a successful year,” he said. 

Fireworks sales are down 20 to 23 percent this past year, but in Windham sales have stayed steady. Before fireworks were legal in Maine, people coming for vacation would buy fireworks in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, but now that Pyro City is open on Route 302 just before the rotary heading toward North Windham, “People heading to camp or vacationing the State of Maine can buy local instead of out of state. They don’t have to get off the highway anymore,” said Marson. 

Fireworks are great to get the family together for the fourth of July, championships, anniversaries, birthdays, “It’s all entertainment,” Marson said. It’s a great way to end a cookout at home. “It’s family-oriented and brings the family together. Spend any amount you want and you become your own chorographer of your own display,” he added. He does recommend that newbies start small and work their way up to bigger displays. 

In the Maine, it is illegal to have rockets on a stick and a lot of vacationers don’t realize that. Buying in Maine, there is no option to purchase the illegal fireworks that might be legal in other states, Marson said. 

Fireworks have their own language. Cakes, fountains, reloadable shells, all packed to provide the consumers with a great show. “Safety is the most important part of it,” said Marson. “Know where you’re firing them.” People who live in wooded areas should stick to fountains and smaller cakes that might only go a few feet in the air. 
The most popular fireworks are reloadable shells like Diablo, the best of the best, he said. Cakes have one fuse and when lit they will shoot the firework off one after the other. The reloadable ones have to have a shell put into a canister/tube each time. Most of what Pyro City sells is Black Cat products. They are only one of six distributors in the country. They also have a “Cat Scan” machine in the store. When a customer scans a product, it will show what the fireworks will look like when they explode. 

“Black Cat has the best reputation for fireworks with a 99.28 percent success rate. All companies have different qualities. I choose to buy the best,” Marson said.  “They need to meet my standards – you’re getting my reputation for being in the display business. I have the same philosophy in the consumer industry.” 

Marson spends at least two weeks in China every year speaking with manufactures and helping to develop new fireworks designs. Central Maine Pyrotechnics, the company that does the Summerfest display, also has a product line of 40 items. Marson also sits on a board for product development, deciding what to make new for the following July. When he’s in China, he sees the products being fired and then makes changes. “We may test 100 different things to get 20 that will make it on the shelves.” 

All of the employees at Pyro City locations are licensed technicians or apprentice technicians who work on Central Maine Pyrotechnics shows. “They are great and knowledgeable about fireworks,” Marson said. He has 45 licensed crew that work for him. 

Consumers must be 21 years old to purchase fireworks in Maine and it says that on the door to Pyro City. The store is open seven days a week until October. There are limited hours through the winter, when fireworks are brilliant in the cold, crisp air, Marson said.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Business spotlight - Green Tree Realty - By Michelle libby

Knowing what a client wants can be a challenge for realtors, but at Green Tree Realty, owner Veronica Schneider and her team listen and ask questions to find the perfect home, income property or vacation property for each family. 
Green Tree Realty opened its doors in 2006 at its Portland office. This year Schneider opened a Windham office to handle the business in Windham, Raymond, Standish, Casco, Naples and beyond. The company is not limited to one area and has sold property in Freeport and Scarborough as well as this area. 

“My husband and I own a lot of investment properties. It made sense to open my own real estate office,” she said. 

The majority of clients come from word of mouth referrals, and Green Tree Realty is looking for new business whether a person wants to sell or buy homes or investment properties. 

The first time Schneider meets with a prospective client, she wants to see if the relationship is compatible because not everyone is meant to work together, she said. She wants her clients to be honest, that’s number one in her book. She also looks for loyalty and those who can communicate effectively.
Green Tree Realty has 10 brokers/realtors in the office. Anne Daigle works exclusively out of the Windham office, which is only open by appointment because as realtors, they are on the road a lot.
“We’re always accessible,” Schneider said. “It’s more about the clients’ convenience than ours. Our first priority is our client’s needs. We don’t see it as a one-time relationship.” 

When it comes to having a specialty in the real estate field, she doesn’t feel that they do one thing better than any other. She knows investment properties because it is in her background. She purchased her first property at age 18 in Canada. She had saved the 20 percent for a down payment and then rented the property for income. 

There is a trend in the past year toward buying second properties in the lakes region, she said. Some clients are from Portland and coastal areas; others are from out of state. The market is active, but the biggest challenge is the low or non-existent inventory. There are houses in every price point, whether down or upsizing. With the market tight, it is very common for buyers to be in a multiple offer situation and Green Tree can help work through that with its clients. 

When selling a home, Green Tree meets with the sellers and also brings in a stager, someone who will look at a house and see how it should be presented to would-be buyers. From new paint and depersonalizing homes to removing screens to let in 33 percent more light, it’s the small stuff that makes a big difference. Stagers can give an unbiased opinion. A $700 fix might make the difference in someone making an offer close to asking price or a house sitting on the market for a long time. Green Tree Realty also brings in a professional photographer from Windham to take pictures of the properties.
“We actually take the time to do it right. We only have one opportunity to make a first impression,” she said. 

Showing homes helps Schneider to know her clients better. The more she sees the more likely she will find a dream home for those clients and possibly if it doesn’t fit one family, the property may be perfect for another. 

“We transform dreams into reality,” Schneider said. “I’m passionate about what I do. It’s not a job to me.” When she sells a home to a family, she stays in their lives forever, she said. She makes sure they are happy and if they need anything, she is there to help. 

Schneider moved her family to Windham for its “sense of community. They invited us with open arms. I just fell in love with the community,” she said. 

With a Canadian background, Schneider is fluent in both English and French.
Green Tree Realty has a very active Facebook page and an interactive website. 

To reach Green Tree Realty call 772-4242, email or visit

Business Spotlight - Windham Barber Shop - By Michelle Libby

A barber shop is not a salon. After sitting in one of the waiting chairs for five minutes one can see many of the differences. Windham Barber Shop is clean, quick and ready to serve their customers and get them back out the door from ages two to 92. 
Owned by Carolee Beaulieu, Windham Barber Shop, located at 15 Heathwood Drive in Windham, is a drop-in shop where no appointments are necessary and wait times are minimal. Windham Barber Shop offers everything from haircuts to beard and mustache trims. Every cut is followed by a hot lather and straight-edge shave of the back of the customer’s neck.

“I like the convenience of the walk-ins myself. What happens, happens, not predetermining my day,” said Beaulieu. “I like the pace of it.” The Windham Barber Shop has been open for three years. Beaulieu worked at another shop for more than seven years until she was ready to go out on her own. 
“Walk in service if different from a salon,” she said. “At a salon they have huge consultations. The men know what they want.” There is zero drama at the barber shop, she said. Men want to come in talk about the weather and sports or if they are regulars, they might discuss Windham gossip and then they’re off.
The average appointment is about 15 minutes from start to finish. Most of the cuts are done with clippers like high and tights, buzz cuts and hard parts.

Julie Fabrizio has 14 years of experience barbering, and is doing an apprenticeship under Beaulieu to become an official barber. “The hot lather and straight-edge shave are what people comment on the most. They love it,” she said. 

“I try to offer a clean environment, consistent haircuts,” said Beaulieu. She does traditional haircuts to Pompadours and scissor cuts. They can wash hair, but Beaulieu said traditionally it’s in and out. 

Windham Barber Shop also offers Layrite Pomade in four types for styling. Pomade goes in like a wax and washes out like a gel. Layrite allows men to put a modern style on a classic look.  

The shop has a massage chair, coffee and magazines for those waiting. It’s used a lot by the moms who bring their sons in, said Beaulieu. They have two chairs running most of the time, so even if there are a few cars in the lot, there’s not as much of a wait as one would think, she said. 

Rod King from Windham stopped in to get a trim with Beaulieu. “She cuts my hair very well with what I have for hair,” he said. 

“Salons are for girls – real men go to the barber shop,” Beaulieu said with a laugh. 

Windham Barber Shop is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. Saturday they are open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. To reach the barber shop, call 370-0054.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Business spotlight - Horsepower Autocare - By Michelle Libby

Horsepower Autocare has been in business for 36 years. They have worked on a lot of cars, have seen the industry change and still, every morning they get up and go to work at a job they love. Bonnie and Bob Merrill bought all of the equipment from Bailey’s Garage in Westbrook in 1979 and decided to open their own shop where they still offer quality service and quality repairs at 44 Roosevelt Trail. 

“We’ve always been known for quality. After 36 years, everything has changed except for the service,” Bonnie said. “We have customers today that we had 36 years ago. They’re in their eighties and nineties.”
“We do everything that is automotive related,” said Bob. The business doesn’t do body work or tow cars, but they do brakes, exhaust, “a lot of driveability work and diagnostics,” added Bonnie. 

Horsepower Autocare is a NAPA Auto Care Center and a AAA approved center. “We’ve been very successful with both of those organizations,” said Bob. To keep up with the affiliations, they have to meet the standards every year. The quality that AAA is associated with and the quality parts NAPA has in addition to the substantial warranty, meshes nicely with the quality work and the high standards Bob and Bonnie set for themselves and their employees. 

Everyone who works at Horsepower Autocare is Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Master technician. They have earned the Blue Seal Award for service and excellence in the industry for the past 12 years. They are only one of two in the state who have earned this recognition. The company has earned many awards over the years, including Bob being recognized as the NAPA ASE technician of the year in 2004. 

“If they’re looking for a place that’s straight forward and honest, that’s us. I think that’s one of the important things today,” Bob said.  The Merrills just arrived back from a NAPA training in Las Vegas, taking five seminars over three days. They learned not necessarily about fixing cars on this trip, but about who their customers are and how to make and keep them happy. 

“It’s a changing business,” said Bob. Bob and his crew keep up with new technology, but still have the skills to work on classic cars. “We aren’t limited and have info that goes back to the 40s and go right up to the new cars,” he added. They work on all makes and models. 

“All of us go to trainings all the time. We must stay current,” Bob said. 

Cars can be towed to Horsepower Autocare, all a customer needs to do is ask. “People in the summertime use that a lot. They contact AAA and have their cars towed here,” said Bob.  

Cooper Eells of Portland stopped by the shop on Tuesday. “I had to find an ASE certified place for my insurance. I liked their website, so I brought my car here. They did a good job and I’ll bring my car back,” he said. 

In addition to car repair, Bob also offers comprehensive evaluations for $130 on used cars. If someone is looking to purchase a car, they can have it looked at and know they are getting a good car, or if it’s one they should pass on. 

Horsepower Autocare is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They can usually get a car scheduled in a day or two and they offer loaner cars. 

For more about Horsepower Autocare or to schedule an appointment, visit or call 892-9420.