Shopping safely with COVID-19 in mind was priority one for Wiscasset retailers taking part in the annual Early Bird Sale on Saturday, Nov. 14.
“This year we handed out packets of alcohol wipes in lieu of free coffee and donuts,” Jeff Averill of Ames True Value told Wiscasset Newspaper. The morning was sunny but a bit chilly when Averill opened the front doors at the Route 1 hardware store at 6 a.m. Business picked up as the morning wore on with customers buying tools, items for their pets, winter work gear, holiday decorations and more.
Steve Averill was manning the paint counter. He said Ames was among the original participating businesses when the Early Bird event started 30 years ago.
“It was one of the newspapers that originally came up with the idea. I think maybe it started in Bath and then spread to other communities including Wiscasset, Boothbay and Damariscotta. There were years when people showed up in their pajamas. It used to be that the earlier they came, the more they saved,” he recalled.
Just down the highway, Joel Verney of Alna was stocking up on fireworks and saving 25% at Big Al’s Fireworks Outlet. “I came in because of the Early Bird Sale,” said Verney. I’m hosting a birthday party tonight, a house warming and also reveal party for my niece. She’s expecting a child and going to tell us whether it’s a boy or girl. We’ll all be social distancing but having a good time.”
Employee Cortney Harris said the fireworks outlet had been busy all morning. One the biggest sales came just after the store opened at 7. Two men from Richmond bought a shopping cart full of fireworks for a 2021 New Year’s celebration they were planning.
Business was also brisk next door at Big Al’s Super Values, another Early Bird Sale promoter since the event started. Ray Walsh, the weekend manager, said shoppers of all ages were taking advantage of the 25% savings on everything. Walsh said the store advertises the sale and reminds customers with an email. “Every year we have a group of sisters that drive down from Bangor just for our Early Bird Sale,” he added.
Downtown, m women were lined up on the sidewalk waiting their turn to shop at In the Clover. Owner Jay McNamara was monitoring the line. Patrons had been very patient, he said. Due to the state’s pandemic protocols, McNamara said he and wife Kasey could only permit four customers into their store at a time. They planned to offer 30% off on all in store purchases until they closed at 5.
Beneath a tent on the sidewalk, Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce members were giving away cups of hot chocolate and freshly baked blueberry muffins courtesy of Sarah’s Café.
Rachel Lannino of Portland was driving by and could not resist stopping for a free hot chocolate. While there, she signed up for the Chamber-sponsored drawing. Prizes included a holiday gift basket from The First, a autumnal arrangement Garden Club of Wiscasset donated and a $50 gift certificate to Water Lily Flowers and Gifts.
Face masks were in fashion. Everyone was wearing one and no one seemed to mind.