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Aroostook Partnership honors County entrepreneurs

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Michelle Hanson, owner of Frederick’s Southside and co-owner of the newly opened Mascoto’s Italian Restaurant, both located in Caribou, received the top honor during Aroostook Partnership’s annual Entrepreneur of the Year award ceremony on Thursday at Northern Maine Community College.

“My days typically begin at 4 or 5 a.m. and don’t end until around 10 at night. Standing here tonight, listening to all these stories about business owners and how hard we’ve all worked to get here makes me want to work even harder in the days ahead,” Hanson said. “This is amazing.”

Aroostook Partnership named Scott Nash and Alan Nash-Pelletier, co-owners of Orchids: A Rare Dining Experience in Madawaska, the second-place entrepreneur award winners, and Michelle Hersey, owner of County Environmental Engineering in Caribou, the third-place winner. Hanson received a plaque and check for $1,000, Nash and Nash-Pelletier, and Hersey received $500 and $250, respectively.

Before the top three winners were announced, all 10 award finalists spoke during “stand and deliver” sessions that took place between courses of the ceremony dinner. All business owners spoke about the stories behind their successful operations and how they’ve strived to make a positive impact on Aroostook County customers.

Hanson has spent most of her life in the business world, as her parents operated two small businesses in Aroostook County and her late husband, Ralph Hanson, owned Frederick’s Southside until his death in 2012. She took over the restaurant soon afterward.

In April 2018, Hanson and Scott Doody opened Mascoto’s Italian Restaurant, located in the former Napoli’s Restaurant building on 6 Center Street in Caribou. Hanson gave much credit to Doody for sharing her vision in giving restaurant-goers a unique, fine-dining experience in Aroostook County.

“I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t found a great partner who also wanted to offer people food that they couldn’t get anywhere else,” Hanson said.

Like Hanson, Nash and Nash-Pelletier also strived to bring “something different” to their community when they opened Orchids in Madawaska in November 2016. The pair had previously operated the restaurant at another location before purchasing and renovating the Fraser Mansion, which had sustained extensive damage from a fire. They offer a variety of meals such as soups, salads, melts and sandwiches as well as beef, pasta, seafood and poultry dinner entrees.

“We’re both thankful that we’re able to offer something unique to the Valley. It’s an honor to receive this award,” Nash-Pelletier said. Nash was unable to attend the ceremony.

Michelle Hersey, president and owner of County Environmental Engineering, and her husband Nathan Hersey, vice president of the business, spoke about the educational and professional journeys that led to them becoming entrepreneurs. The couple took over the Caribou-based environmental company from Michelle’s parents in 2010 and have since added many licenses and certifications to their resumes in order to expand their services.

Michelle is a Maine licensed professional engineer, certified geologist, and lead and asbestos inspector. She also has bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and in environmental studies with a concentration in geology, and a master’s degree in environmental engineering. Nathan is a Maine licensed radon professional, certified tank installer and above-ground storage tank inspector with a bachelor’s degree in communications. They provide environmental and storage tank site assessments; tank inspections, removals and installations; and lead and asbestos inspections.

“We try to do a little bit of everything,” said Michelle. “There are so many underutilized properties in Aroostook County and we want to help people who buy those properties and are concerned about environmental damage.”

Other nominees for Entrepreneur of the Year were Travis Jandreau, David Saucier, Travis Guy, Rod Lahren and Matt Deprey of First Mile Brewery in Fort Kent; Jim Bell of Wired Houlton; Pierre and Donna Dubay of Cove Corner Kennels in St. Agatha; Paul Morgan of Dodos Market and Access 89 Pub in Caribou; Rick and Cassie Daigle of Too Far North Fitness in Fort Kent; Tina Boucher of Interior Accents in Madawaska; and Loryn Moran of House of Handsome in Presque Isle.

Aroostook Partnership presented Lois Dickson, owner and president of Tempo Employment Services in Presque Isle, with their second annual Vanguard Award. The award is given to longtime business owners who have made significant contributions to economic development in Aroostook County.

Dickson returned to her home county in 1993 after spending many years in Tennessee and took the position of manager for Tempo. She purchased the company in 1996 and has gone on to help 400 Aroostook County residents annually find full-time, part-time or temporary employment. Many temporary employees have gained permanent positions as they gained skills, experience and knowledge.

“No business owner can function by themselves and I’m no exception. I want to thank the three businessmen who allowed me to purchase Tempo and pursue my dream of having my own business and my two employees who have become like family to me,” Dickson said.

Aroostook Partnership President Bob Dorsey said that by recognizing entrepreneurs, the nonprofit organization hopes to inspire other individuals to start small businesses and provide greater economic growth and important services to County citizens.

“Eighty-five percent of our economy relies on small businesses and so we really want to encourage the younger generation by promoting those who have accomplished their goals,” Dorsey said. “These business owners work long, hard hours to grow and expand their businesses and provide jobs and we appreciate what they’ve done for this region.”

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