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Two independent Fort Kent retailers postpone opening doors for now

FORT KENT, Maine — Although the state eased business restrictions allowing retailers in Aroostook County to open their doors on Monday, May 11, two independent Fort Kent shops will keep their brick and mortar doors closed for a little while longer.

Little Daniel’s Den and Bogan Books will wait to open their doors after weeks of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but both Main Street businesses continue to offer online services.

“Many people have asked if I will be re-opening the store now that Maine is lifting some restrictions on businesses,” said Little Daniel’s Den owner Melanie Hartt. “For my safety and that of my customers, I have decided to hold off on opening my doors to the public at this time. I will be operating solely online until I feel the virus is either under control or we have more immediate/universal testing.”

Little Daniel’s Den is a consignment shop with a boutique feel. The store offers gently used, name-brand children’s clothing for all seasons — ranging in size from newborns to teens. Little Daniel’s Den also carries books, toys, shoes and maternity wear.

“A year ago I launched my website with the intention that it would help the shop reach more customers than can physically walk into a store in Fort Kent. And I did ship to folks across the country, all helping my consigners earn money,” Hartt said.

“Little did I know that we would be hit with a pandemic and my website would be used to get clothes to families who are much more local.”

Hartt said that shipping out clothes to customers is more work than simply hanging clothes on a rack where browsers can choose their purchases.

“As a one-mom shop, I’d rather spend my time actually getting product to customers. By keeping the public-facing doors closed, I’m able to guarantee that the product I do deliver to my customers is Covid-19 free.”

Although there was an initial dip in sales due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Hartt said the situation has improved.

“Because it’s hard to get clothes anywhere now, people are really starting to check in with me,” Hartt said.

Heidi Carter, owner of Bogan Books in Fort Kent. Courtesy of Heidi Carter

Another Fort Kent retailer — Bogan Books — is an independent bookstore that opened in 2018.

Owner Heidi Carter said she is not comfortable opening the doors to Bogan Books just yet, so will wait until June 1.

“My shop is tiny and in order to keep me, my customers and my inventory safe, I feel it is important to be conservative,” Carter said.

Like Little Daniel’s Den, Bogan Books has continued to offer online sales and curbside delivery throughout the shutdown.

“Although our doors have been closed, we have continued to sell books mainly through social media and our website,” Carter said. “I have always felt like I have had the best customers and they have continued to be so through this crazy time.”

Bogan Books sees continued interest in all reading categories, according to Carter, but especially graphic novels for kids and adult fiction. She said there has also been a spike in sales of self-help and health books, as well as foraging and gardening books.

“When I see this, it’s not only a return to reading that people are after, it’s also a return to nature,” Carter said. “I think our society was spinning into a chaotic time of overworking and detachment of what matters most — which is different for everyone — but the pandemic has given us an opportunity to pause and discover what that is.”

“This crisis has really had a lot of people find reading again,” Carter said. “People have been forced to slow down because of COVID-19 and many people who felt that they didn’t have time to read before, find that they do now. Others feel they need something to distract them from the concerns surrounding us and there is only so much Tiger King people can watch.”

Hartt and Carter have more in common than owning small businesses in the town; they have been close friends since childhood. They are also both civic-minded.

Hartt has used her sewing skills to make face masks, which she offers for free to children.
“Kids should stay safe, but they should also have a way to get out and be socially responsible,” Hartt said.

Carter recently organized a book drive to support local schools.

“We will be working with the librarians at the six schools in the Valley Unified area to begin dispersing books this week,” Carter said.

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