Friday, February 24, 2017

Business Spotlight - Propane Setters by Michelle Libby

Propane Setters is a new local company servicing heating equipment for propane, oil and natural gas. With 14 years of experience in the industry, John Schoennagel wanted to have a different kind of company, one that puts customers first and the bottom line second. 

John Schoennagel of Propane Setters
Propane Setters installs gas appliances like stoves and refrigerators, on demand water heaters and boilers. His primary goal is to provide service for all of the equipment. He is a dealer for Rinnai, which means that there will be no middle man when it comes to getting parts for heaters.
The company offers cleanings, repairs, installation of gas lines and oil lines. Schoennagel knows the business and is frank about what he offers. 

Schoennagel grew up in Rhode Island and owned an auto repair shop before moving to Maine.
“I enjoy the interaction with customers more with heating than auto repair,” he said.
His top priority is treating customers right. “I want customers to feel like they’re being paid attention to. I will keep in touch with them until they get that part in the end,” he said. 

With his knowledge of how big chain heating companies are working with clients, Schoennagel wants to be fair with his customers in both price and information. It takes very little effort for him to call a customer to give an update on the progress of their project. 

“I do a lot of educating about the products,” he said. “I’m also more flexible with a person on a tight, strict budget. Sometimes I think I’m too kind hearted.” He is hoping that word of mouth advertising will encourage more people to call him when they are looking to upgrade heating systems or need service. 

During the most recent blizzard, Schoennagel received a call from a hearing impaired woman with no heat at 3:30 a.m. He struck out to help her. She lived on a private road that hadn’t been plowed, but he made it there. After three hours, he finished the job, which had involved climbing on her metal roof to unblock her chimney flue, among other things. 

“It’s gratification. You know you did a good thing,” he said.  

Schoennagel wasn’t planning to open another business after closing his auto repair shop, but he felt with the dysfunctional scheduling and lack of customer service, he owed it to the community to offer his services through Propane Setters. Not every large company has these issues, but enough do that he wanted to make a difference. 

“I know there will be disgruntled people and I will work with them,” he said. “You get respect when you give respect.”

Propane Setters does not sell products and it doesn’t change out tanks, but the best way to find out if the company can help is to give them a call. Schoennagel is licensed and insured. His territory is a 50-mile radius from Windham and north. Propane Setters also services commercial food equipment like fryolators and propane stoves.

“Clients are looking for natural gas where it’s available because they don’t run out,” Schoennagel said. Propane is clean burning. Despite that, it still requires cleaning and safety evaluations yearly. When Schoennagel installs a heater, he offers a free cleaning a year later to make sure everything is working as it should.

Propane Setters also offers yearly contracts. The one-time payment is individually created depending on the appliances being covered and the customer’s needs. Each contract comes with one free cleaning and covers labor and emergency calls. 

Emergency calls after hours are only for those without heat or hot water, he clarified.
If a client offers a referral that Schoennagel sees, they receive their next cleaning for half price as a thank you, he said.  

For more information on Propane Setters call: 207-272-9754 or email:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Business spotlight Kristen Roy – Landing Real Estate By Michelle Libby

Kristen Roy bought her first house when she was 21 years old. Since then, real estate buying and selling has been her passion. She owns 13 properties with her husband and doesn’t plan to stop buying any time soon. 

Roy is a broker with Landing Real Estate, which will open its Windham office soon. She will work out of that office, but said that her office has four wheels and she is always moving. Roy does not do commercial real estate, but works with all residential home buyers and sellers. 

“I’m a realtor because of all the buying and selling with other realtors that I’ve done. Some were positive experiences and some experiences I would never go through again,” Roy said.
She is the full-time mom of two boys. Working around her children’s schedule doesn’t mean that she’s unavailable to her clients. 

“I’m obsessed with it. I love what I do. It’s a fun, natural high,” she explained. Roy loves working with her clients and she loves to interview them face to face, to find out what they like and don’t like in a home. 

She is a little different when it comes to a first meeting. She sets up a showing at a house the clients like. “It’s probably not the first house they’ll buy,” Roy said, but it gives her valuable feedback moving forward to the next home and the one following that. “I’m watching, learning who they are. I learn so much more watching them than on a one on one interaction at the office,” she said.
Word of mouth and her son are her biggest marketing tools. Her son carries business cards in his backpack to set up playdates with his friends. He just hands over a card to have his friends’ parents call his parents. Roy said she has connected with many clients that way. 

“People go from trusting me with their children to then trusting me with their finances,” she said. Roy enjoys helping families relocate. “I listen to what they are looking for,” she said. Then she finds the house that meets their needs whether it’s a starter house, a larger home for a growing family or a retirement house on the water. 

We were first time home buyers and [Roy] is both knowledgeably, patient and friendly…We spent a lot of time searching for houses on Zillow and she would quickly find out more information about them and set up showings... She had set away whole days for just us and we would drive around to the various houses for showings. She was always upbeat, and honest,” said one Zillow reviewer.
Roy is the number two realtor/broker in Raymond because of her involvement in the community and coaching sports.  “I’m just me. I don’t hideout. I’m very honest and open. I love being a broker,” reports Roy. 

One of the perks of being a broker in Maine is seeing the state. Roy grew up in Bucksport and has clients in that area, in addition to working with clients in the greater Raymond area. She has a presence on and receives leads from potential clients from out-of-state. 
“She always made time in her schedule to fit our needs and is quite fluent with the lakes region. Buying or selling, she will have a repeat customer in us,” said another Zillow reviewer. 

Being a realtor is hard work, she explained. “I want it to be an easy, memorable experience.” Once she sells a home to a family especially in Raymond, she is always in their lives. “I’m your forever realtor,” she said. 

For more information, visit, email or call or text 207-671-8149.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Business Spotlight J.D. Stewart Financial By Michelle Libby

When thinking about financial planning, think no further than J.D. Stewart Financial services in
Windham and Saco. From retirement planning to tax preparation, the company and its owner Jonathan D. Stewart can set a family or individual on the path to financial success. 

“We offer a wide variety of financial services. This one-stop-shop saves time and hassle for our clients. ” said Stewart. “It’s better for business and better for clients. I can help them with many parts of their financial situation. ”  

Started in 1989, J.D. Stewart Financial has a primary office in Saco, and a satellite office in Windham at 76 Tandberg Trail. JD Stewart Financial is independent, so they are not tied to any one product or company, allowing them to work in the client’s best interest. They take the time to learn about the client’s specific needs and then tailor the best possible program for them. With the experience and education the financial advisors have, they can educate the client and work to meet their financial goals.

“Tax preparation and retirement planning are the biggest parts of my business,” Stewart said. He works with clients from age 18 to age 100, depending on their needs. Those in the 18 to 25 age bracket can receive help getting their finances in order for the future. In the middle aged group, Stewart can review and design retirement plans, prepare taxes, and set up college savings accounts.

For those retired, he can help plan retirement income strategies, prepare taxes, and assist with wealth transfer. It doesn’t matter whether the client is low income or high income, J.D. Stewart Financial can help them meet financial goals. For as little as $100, clients can start a portfolio or meet with an advisor to assess where they are financially, and what they should be doing. There is no charge for a financial review, and in 30 to 45 minutes, a client can learn what areas need to be addressed. 
“They may benefit from one or more of the services we offer” after the review, said Stewart. “You don’t have to have thousands of dollars to invest.” 

For those who already have a financial planner, J.D. Stewart Financial can provide a free, second opinion for retirement or financial planning.

“There are new strategies available now that were not available five years ago,” Stewart said.

Stewart has a skilled team of employees, who all have their own specialties, but are also available to help with other services. Christina T. Totos is the executive assistant for the Saco office. Greg Blackburn is a CPA, registered tax preparer, and licensed insurance agent.

It is tax season, and J.D. Stewart Financial can professionally prepare your tax return. They know what to look for, can find deductions, and use their experience to the client’s advantage. On the J.D. Stewart Financial website there is a tax organizer and reminder checklist that anyone can use to prepare for their tax preparation. 

The company can prepare taxes for individuals and small businesses (sole proprietors, LLC or S-Corps)

The biggest mistakes people make when it comes to financial planning is “not starting early enough for retirement and getting into too much debt. I can help with both things,” said Stewart. When it comes to debt, the financial advisors can offer ideas and educate client on spending habits so they don’t get into that situation again. 

Financial advisors with J.D. Stewart Financial have ongoing education for income taxes, which they’ve been doing since 1992, along with other training and licensing classes. Check out all of their services online at Appointments are recommended at both offices, especially during tax season.

For more information about the company, visit To contact them, the best way is by email at or call Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 207-894-5523. Appointments can be scheduled online.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Business Spotlight - Snowskants By Michelle Libby

Windham resident Cathy Streifel never intended to produce clothing, but when she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she went all out to create snowskants. Skants are a combination of a skirt and pants made with fleece, a soft shell fabric that is water resistant with a snow gator on each leg just for women. There is no fly, no pockets and no buttons. There is no hardware that could break or catch while participating in outdoor activities. The snowskants have pull on ease with the comfort waist of a yoga pant. The material is inherently waterproof and windproof, which is great on the mountain, and can be washed at home. 

“This is for fun. It’s a product for having fun,” said Streifel who has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and an associate’s degree in fashion merchandising. She also worked for 10 years in the ski industry. She knows the ski culture. 

Streifel is an outdoor enthusiast. She skis, hikes and whenever it’s cold she wears her skants. She was never in the apparel industry, so she found it difficult in the new adventure, to get exactly what she wanted. She found a woman in Massachusetts to make a pattern and then she searched to find manufacturers in the U.S. “I didn’t let it stop me,” said Streifel, of the roadblocks she found. 
She was paired with a company in Hildebrand, NC, to make the skants.

She created 200 pairs after wearing a prototype pair for skiing last year. After making some changes, she is happy with the products she has produced and proud they are made in the United States. When she started looking for something to wear on the slopes, she found running skirts, mountain biking skirts and skirts on bathing suits, but nothing she could wear on the mountain.
“I did a thorough Internet search to the end of the Internet,” Streifel said. “But I came up with nothing for Alpine skiing.” 

She met with a patent attorney, who came up with the snowskants name. “It’s a product they’ve never seen,” Streifel said about the people on the slopes. She created big tags, manufactured by SML in Lewiston, Maine, that people could read when she was in line for the chairlift.
Snowskants aren’t only for alpine skiing. They can be worn ice skating, skiing, snow shoveling or to football games when the temperatures drop. They can even be worn while walking the dog on those cold mornings, Streifel suggested. No long underwear needed. 

The snowskants keep people warm on the cold benches at football games or on the chairlift.
For one woman from New Hampshire, it was a modesty thing. Having a skirt helped cover some of the areas she didn’t want to expose. 

“I felt very frumpy and uncomfortable in any ski pants. I felt mannish,” Streifel said. Snowskants bring feminine fun to outdoor activities. 

She started Pyxie, LLC, in January of 2015, as a company to produce snowskants. At some point Streifel hopes to expand her girls’ and women’s wear with different colors and patterns and hats and sweaters. 

Streifel grew up in Casco, moved to Colorado and has returned to Maine to raise her two children. Streifel’s husband Chris has been supportive, helping with social media marketing.
A former Olympian in Olympic Valley, California wears snowskants and a skier in Colorado also wears them. Even Mallory Brooke from Channel 8 wears snowskants to report on the weather. Although it isn’t a huge trend yet - Streifel hopes that once women try them, they won’t want to wear anything else. 

The women’s skants are $179.99 and the girl’s skants are $99. Through this article, order using the coupon code Eagle, and get 20 percent off the order. Snowskants make great gifts for any woman who spends time in the outdoors. Locals can avoid the shipping fee by emailing:
Snowskants are also available at Sugarloaf, in Big Sky, Montana and two Michigan stores.
You can find snowskants on Facebook at Pyxie, LLC, and Instagram and on Twitter follow: @snowskants.