David Newman had been in the bicycle repair business for years, running a small operation out of his garage and managing various bicycle shops. With a dream to open his own bicycle and sporting goods business, and having decades of retail and management experience, he began looking for commercial real estate to establish The Local Gear in rural Maine. When the historic Stewart’s Auto Sales storefront and garage came up for sale, the location and space seemed too good to be true.
“This is a legacy building. Everyone in town knew Jimmy Stewart, and wondered what would become of the garage. We wanted to keep it local.”
-David Newman, Owner, The Local Gear
The combination commercial and residential space with a large parking lot was perfectly situated at the intersection of Route 5 and Route 25 in downtown Cornish, Maine. Mary Stewart, manager of her late husband Jimmy’s business property, believed in protecting Jimmy’s life-work and was in favor of selling to the Newman’s, knowing that they would establish a small family-run business.
David and Heather Newman, husband and wife, went to local banks for financing, but none were willing to take on the risk. The property was a former gas station, posing potentially huge environmental challenges, and the buyers were first-time business owners. Recognizing that they did not fit the typical parameters of borrowers, they turned to CEI and began working with loan officer Art Stevens to put together a financial package.
“Working with CEI felt right for us. Our philosophy and ideals really aligned. We had never owned a business or bought a commercial building before. Art was a great support, helping with every step along the way,” said David.
The Newman family sealed the deal with over $200,000 of financing for the purchase and renovation of the garage space that would soon be home to The Local Gear.
The family of five spent over six months renovating the space, almost exclusively on their own. “We were here every day. With the boys around, they really felt part of the business, and still do. It was important to do this as a family,” said Heather. The family reclaimed as many materials as they could from the original garage, and sourced used materials from the community to transform the space. Renovation challenges including unexpected electric work and environmental diligence processes were met with determination and support from CEI. “They could’ve easily walked away from this, but they never gave up, even with all the roadblocks,” said Art Stevens, CEI loan officer.
In a town of under 1,500 residents, the Newman’s made a point to fill a niche market in Cornish without pushing away any other businesses. The combination bicycle retail and repair business also carries outdoor sporting goods including fishing, camping and hiking gear. The Local Gear attracts both locals who now don’t have to travel to Portland or New Hampshire for sporting goods, and high end shoppers. “Carrying Trek bicycles gives us legitimacy among the cycling crowd,” said David. In addition to their retail space, the building includes another small commercial space on the ground level which is rented to a local business, and a three bedroom residential apartment upstairs.
The doors opened in early April, and Dave and his oldest son Ben are running the shop. “We’re a close family. I’m proud to feel a sense of ownership in the business,” said Ben, who works at the shop and is learning bicycle repair and renovation skills from his father David.