Berries’s Hearing & Optical Center is one of downtown Brunswick’s oldest establishments, opening its Maine Street doors in 1936. Anna Strange is the first female-owner of the business, and only the third owner in over 80 years. As a native Mainer, she said people responded well to the transition of ownership and revamping of the space, helped in-part by a CEI loan in late 2015. Many of the aging clients walk through the doors, look around, and say, “This is different than when I was a kid!”. They remember coming to Berrie’s to get glasses as a child, and have remained lifelong customers. Today, the optical business operates alongside the hearing center which offers hearing assessments and hearing aid solutions to customers.
When the previous owner of Berrie’s announced his retirement after 30 years of practice in 2014, Anna decided to purchase the business. Less than two years later, when the building came up for sale, Anna knew the Maine Street location of the business was hugely important to its continued success. She began searching for a loan from a local bank. “I was in the process of seeking out financing, and I saw that you [CEI] had just moved into Brunswick. I impulsively wandered in to your new Federal Street office and immediately was connected to staff that helped me put together a loan application,” said Anna.
“Working with CEI felt like the right community fit and I was excited about its proximity to Berrie’s.”–Anna Strange, owner, Berrie’s Hearing & Optical Center
Anna worked with business advisor Brad Swanson to put together a business plan. Next, she secured financing through CEI’s lending services, which allowed her to purchase the building and give the interior and exterior a facelift. Anna’s goal was to respect the history of the business and its location, while bringing much needed updates and renovations to the space. In partnership with the Brunswick Downtown Association, she participated in a grant which partially funded downtown facade improvements.
Every building in downtown Brunswick is currently occupied or under construction for occupation. Anna and her colleague Michael Cartwright are excited to be part of a thriving Maine downtown that supports small local businesses. CEI has supported numerous other businesses in Brunswick’s downtown through the years including Gelato Fiasco, Little Dog Coffee Shop, Cool as a Moose, The McLellan, as well as businesses at the Brunswick Landing. Many of these businesses are women-owned. “I believe that the women-owned businesses in Brunswick are part of the overall economic health of the town and of Maine Street! Without us, there would be vacant real estate and store fronts, and a lack of necessary needs and services available to our neighbors,” said Anna.