Sunday, June 29, 2014

Spotlight on Sebago Lake Pools - By Michelle Libby

The days are getting hot and humid. Between working fulltime and activities with the children, there’s no time for family vacations or a trip to the beach. Sebago Lake Pools has a solution.

“People are so busy. Having a pool is like having their own mini-vacation in their yard, without the traffic or people,” said owner Steve Richard. 

Sebago Lake Pools has been in business for 23 years and in that time they have installed many in-ground and above ground pools of all shapes and sizes. This company is unique in that they are also a full-service contractor and will put in the pool and perform all the site work, including special jobs like stamped, colored concrete patios. 

“We take care of almost anything for the customer,” said Richard. 

A typical in-ground pool package runs around $22,000, but can vary in price based on the homeowner’s needs. The pool will usually last between 30 and 35 years. Above ground pools are less money, but also have a limited life span. They carry Trevi pools and Techno-Bois pools for above ground units. “They hold up well for an above ground pool,” said Richard. 

“We build our pools so it’s easy to take care of,” he said. They use a good system and teach their customers how to take care of it. “We over engineer everything,” Richard said. Richard also goes to every job site and if there is a problem to find out how he and his employees can rectify the situation.
They have two convenient locations – Route 25 in Gorham and Route 302 in Windham. Both the stores carry a full line of pool chemicals. Two of the wooden above ground pools are on display in Gorham. If someone is having trouble with their pool, Richard encourages them to bring in a water sample to know what type of chemicals to purchase.  

In addition to putting in new pools, Sebago Lake Pools also services all types of pools from Portsmouth to Augusta. With 14 full-time employees, they can work on fixing any issues a customer might have from replacing vinyl liners for in-ground pools to fixing settled concrete. The team is professional and will get the job done whether they installed the pool or not. 

In a summer, Sebago Lake Pools services and creates new outdoor entertainment for between 500 and 600 customers each summer. A new customer can be swimming in their pool in approximately two to three weeks for an in-ground pool and two weeks for an above ground pool, said Richard. 

Customers generally take out home equity loans to pay for a pool, said Richard. “Most (people) aren’t doing big luxury items,” he added. The pool industry hasn’t recovered from the economic downturn in recent years. Sebago Lake Pools does offer financing for some customers, but most times requires a customer to have their own financing set up. 

Richard reminds customers that a cheap price could spell disaster down the road in a few years as things begin to settle. “I’ve heard horror stories,” Richard said. He plans to do it right from the start.

Sebago Lakes Pools is open 6-days a week, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Windham store is closed on Wednesdays. “Come in and see what we have to offer. Educate yourself,” said Richard. 

For more information and to see pictures of recent jobs, visit, 24-7.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Business spotlight - Northstar Mortgage Group, LLC

When a homebuyer looks to purchase a home, rarely does he get excited about getting a mortgage. Homebuyers want to look at houses, shop for curtains and they dream about sitting on the front porch.
Northstar Mortgage Group wants to help homebuyers, and homeowners who want to refinance, to realize their dreams by thinking of Northstar for their mortgage needs. This family-owned and operated business has its headquarters in Windham and answers only to their customers, not an out of state conglomerate.
“We want to be this area’s go-to company for residential mortgages,” said Jason Gagnon, co-owner.
 “We’re able to offer lower rates, lower closing costs and an array of products.”

Northstar opened in 2005 under the direction of Leigh Gagnon, when Jason and Leigh married, they became co-owners. June 1, Northstar opened in a new location after outgrowing their previous office. Now in Turning Leaf Plaza, near Buck’s Naked BBQ, Northstar is ready to service mortgages for at least the next 10 years.  

All of the loan officers are licensed and offer a variety of experience. Jason and Leigh are both licensed loan officers and the others in the group are Deb McPhail, Katrina Virgie and Ian Bushover. 

Northstar has access to 100 percent financing options, VA loans, reverse mortgages, second home products, building packages with local builders and more. They cover the entire state, but want to be known for service in the Sebago region. Being mortgage brokers, Northstar is able to be more flexible in what they offer to their clients. 

“One thing that makes us special is we have one person who walks you through the process from application to the closing table,” said Leigh. “The second thing is experience. I have nine years myself.” Leigh also added that education is important to know which applications go with which products and which might need extra help. 

If someone’s credit is not there, they might need to learn how to get their score where it needs to be to get their first home, said Jason. “We look long term.” 
“We create a personalized plan to get a timeframe of when they could afford a home,” said Leigh.
Northstar has a secure, online web application that takes about five minutes. Northstar brokers will review it within 24 hours. The loan officers will meet people at the office, in the client’s home, after work or on the weekend and will help them with the application, if needed. They can also take applications over the phone. They will issue a pre-approval letter after the application is accepted.
Closings have taken as little as 12 days and as many and 30 days. Northstar does not have an affiliation with any particular realtor, but they do receive realtor referrals. 

“The best part of the job is working with buyers - helping people get into a home, and new couples getting into their first home. It’s rewarding,” said Leigh. 

To reach Northstar Mortgage Group, visit, call 893-8499 or contact a mortgage broker by cell phone. Walk ins are always welcome Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Spotlight on Windham Wellness - By Michelle Libby

Under the Windham Wellness umbrella are five practitioners who believe in the best for their clients through individualized services. They came together because of location and a common goal. “At Windham Wellness we are here to support, educate, nurture and assist in the healing process as a whole keeping mind, body and spirit in the forefront of our practice to bring about a positive change,” said Tricia Grinnell, co-owner of Vitality.

The practices are located at 57 Tandberg Trail in Windham. They are hosting an open house on Wednesday June 18, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Lisa DeFosse Massage
Lisa DeFosse

“I provide custom massages and energy healing for the last nine years. I am trained in Therapeutic massage, Myofascial Release, Reiki, Healing Touch, and Polarity. Pain can stem from many sources, including stored trauma in the body. Along with talking to my clients, intuitive bodywork helps me to find that source and apply techniques to bring lasting relief,” she said.
Having taken advanced classes in neck massage, DeFosse specializes in relieving pain in the neck and upper back. She has recently added foot soaks, scrubs and ear candling to her services.
DeFosse has lived in Windham for 17 years.

Vitality Skin Care and Massage
Trish Grinnell

Grinnell is part owner of Vitality Skin Care and Massage. She is a licensed esthetician/skin care consultant. 

For services she offers all different types of facials from acne, anti-aging, relaxing, deep pore cleaning, enzyme and peels to her newest service which is a meditation facial. She also offers lash tinting, back-cials and body exfoliation treatments.

“If a new client has never had a facial before or is afraid to try a facial because of skin issues or perhaps they are hooked on a favorite skin care brand, talk to me about what you are using and bring your products in with you I am happy to create a customized facial with your skin health and goals in mind,” said Grinnell.

Grinnell lives in Harrison and has been working with her business partner since July 2013.

Rebecca Messer

Messer is the other partner in Vitality. She graduated from massage school in 2000 and has worked part-time doing massage until joining with Grinnell. 

“I offer individualized therapeutic massage by incorporating several different modalities to achieve the best personalized result for each client. I am also very talented in the art of relaxation massage. Hot towels are included in every session and you have the option of adding hot stones, aromatherapy foot soaks and hand and foot exfoliation,” Messer said. 

Messer was raised in Raymond and graduated from Windham High School.

Rising Tide Acupuncture
Sara Kendall

Kendall is a licensed acupuncturist in the State of Maine and has many other certifications and studied at the New England School of Acupuncture in Newton, Mass. 

“I provide a drug free and painless system of personalized care for individuals seeking to reduce pain, improve health, and enhance their overall quality of life. My goal is to create balance and stimulate the body's inherent ability to heal itself. I work one on one with patients to create a specific treatment plan that fits their personal condition,” said Kendall.

She offers in addition to traditional acupuncture, electrical stimulation, cupping, moxibustion, gua sha, tui na, herbal therapy, and nutritional counseling to enhance treatment results.

Kendall grew up in Casco, currently lives in Bath and has been practicing in Windham since March. She is a Navy Veteran.  

Bonnie Handy

Handy is a licensed social worker since 1997 and completed her Master of Social Work in 2000. She received her LCSW in 2002 and LADC in 2005. 

“I'm a clinical social worker and substance abuse counselor. I specialize in helping adults with PTSD and addictions. I often use Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR therapy) to help people work through old patterns of “stuckness”, to develop new awareness of possibilities, and greater fulfillment,” said Handy. 

“Trauma and addiction are all normal forms of human suffering that can be transformed. I am honored to be part of someone's personal liberation,” Handy said.

Handy grew up in Maine and has lived in the greater Portland area for the past 30 years.

Susanne Martorano
Southern Maine Pediatric Therapies

Martorano owns Southern Maine Pediatric Therapies. She is an occupational therapist who works with children birth through school age.

Right now I offer occupational therapy services to children. We see kids in the clinic or in a preschool setting. We offer initial evaluations, weekly therapy sessions, individualized treatment plans, consultation to teachers, Handwriting Without Tears program, I am also certified in Therapeutic Listening. We work on developing fine motor skills, self-care skills and sensory processing skills,” said Martorano. 

She has been working in pediatrics for over 10 years. She is originally from Old Saybrook, Conn. and attended the University of New England. She lives in Gorham.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Spotlight on: The Maine Real Estate Network - by Michelle Libby

Will Plummer, the head of the Windham office of The Maine Real Estate Network , is growing his office with the backing of the “biggest independent real estate company in the State of Maine.” 

With 19 offices all over the state, The Maine Real Estate Network can help locals and those from away buy and sell their properties. 

“Company-wide the focus is on education, education, education. Things are changing. Everyone needs to keep up on them,” said Plummer, who took over the office in January, after 18 years in the business. From MLS listings to DocuSign and ZipForms, Plummer and his team are on the cutting edge of how to use the Internet and technology to work for their clients. “We’re going high tech and we’re keeping up with that,” he said. 

The realtors are required to earn a minimum of 21 credit hours of training every two years much of that is Internet and paperless real estate brokering. 

The office in Windham is at 887 Roosevelt Trail. It has a cozy atmosphere and is close to where the agents live, so they know the area they are working in. There are 14 agents in the office, but Plummer said there is room for more. 

He is looking for people who like to talk and who love working with people. They make the best realtors, he said. “Our tag line is ‘creating relationships for life’ I believe that,” Plummer said. “We’re a highly professional profession,” he added.

The bulk of the property they work with is residential housing. “A lot is waterfront on the lakes and ponds around here and our brokers can do commercial properties,” said Plummer. The clients they list and sell houses for run from people who want to buy multi-million dollar properties to middle class folks looking to purchase their first homes. 

The Maine Real Estate Network also has a database for rentals if clients or customers are looking for a temporary home. 

Having the larger corporation as a backup is great for Plummer, who said he could reach out to approximately 425 agents at one time if he needed information. 

Plummer prefers to be a buyer’s agent, where he is contractually obligated to work for his client.
Plummer said that the market is going well. “It’s recovering, but it’s not where it was a few years ago. People are out buying, looking. They understand the market better,” he said. “The sale prices in Cumberland County have come up dramatically. All signs that the economy is doing better.” 

The Maine Real Estate Network has a network of resources they work with, from home inspectors to banks and builders. For more on the company or to look at properties, call 207-894-5722 visit or visit them on Facebook.