There’s something different about the Maine Diner this year and it’s not on the menu. There’s a new girl in town so to speak and she’s taking the Remember the Maine Gift Shoppe to new heights as the shoppe’s manager. Meet Sharon Towne. Her easy-going nature combined with her razor sharp merchandising has brought a fresh new look to one of Maine’s dearest treasures.
“If there is one thing I know… its retail. I’ve been working in retail since I was just 14. I worked at the Oxbow Gift Shop in Ogunquit. There were nine girls. I was the right hand to the owner… how I loved it there. Decorating the windows, meeting so many nice people. I stayed till I was 18,” explains Sharon.
Sharon spent years as a caretaker but the lure of retail always called her back. She spent five years at Carrot and Company until the owners retired. And then she thought maybe it was time for her to retire… but somehow that just wasn’t for her.
Sharon had known the Diner for many years; she’d been stopping in for the breakfast with regularity since the mid 90’s. When she saw the ad for the manager’s assistant position, it seemed only natural to apply. After the initial interview, she was hired on the spot. Little did she know then in a very short time she would be running the entire store?
Sharon stepped into the manager position just about the time the Diner’s new web site was rolled out which included a brand new on-line store for the shoppe. So if it wasn’t enough to be restocking shelves, expanding new product lines, putting her own sense of sizzle into the store, there was a brand new audience out there logging in for everything from blueberry jam to Maine Diner cookbooks and gift cards.
What’s the best seller in the store? “Has to be the corn muffin mix,” replied Sharon. “I had a lady in here this summer who came all the way from upstate New York. She buys the mix a dozen at a time. She told me she freezes the mix to keep it fresh and when she wants a batch, just takes one out to thaw. It’s a big hit in her house and she’s not alone. We sell cases of the mix!”
And sales are up. “Boy are they up,” chuckles Sharon. She credits not only the renewed web presence but also a shake up in the merchandise. Diner ball caps for the ladies in seaside colors with matching flip flops, locally made hand lotions easy to fit into bags packed for the beach. New colors, new T’s designs and a firm commitment to the tried and true.
What’s the best part of the job? “Has to be the customers! I meet people from all over the United States who all have a connection with the Diner. Some have been coming for years, or maybe it’s their first time in. They usually have just had a great meal so they’re in a terrific mood to shop. Even on a cold wet day, you meet the sunniest of people. Who wouldn’t love that?” says Sharon with a warm smile.
What has been the feedback on your changes to the store? Often people don’t like seeing changes in “their institutions”. “It’s mostly the locals who have commented. Since they are in more often and more regularly, they notice. And its been well received,” she nods. “Just go back to that part about sales being up,” she says with a laugh.
What does the future hold for the Remember the Maine Gift Shoppe. “To continue to grow and promote the Maine Diner brand. More jams and jellies, maybe a new cookbook. We really listen to our customers because they all appreciate bringing a little bit of the Diner home with them. After all, it’s kind of like we are all family in a way and the Diner just brings us a little bit closer.”