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Will’s Shop ‘n Save saluted as a veteran-owned small business

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — For nearly a decade Will’s Shop ‘n Save has been a fixture in Dover-Foxcroft, as a downtown grocery store and through the numerous ways the business has given back to the community. During National Veteran Small Business Week leading up to Veterans Day, the establishment was recognized as a success story by the U.S. Small Business Administration during an afternoon presentation on Monday, Nov. 4.

Standing in the parking lot business namesake Will Wedge, who served in the United State Air Force and owns the store with his wife Melissa, thanked those attending the presentation. The audience included local and state officials and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Angus King, I-Maine and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
NATIONAL VETERAN SMALL BUSINESS WEEK HONOR — Will’s Shop ‘n Save of Dover-Foxcroft owners Will and Melissa Wedge, holding the certificate, were recognized as a success story by the U.S. Small Business Administration during National Veteran Small Business Week on Nov. 4. Wedge, who served in the United State Air Force, and his wife have owned the downtown grocery store since 2011.

“I just wanted to say the SBA has been very important to our success over the years, we’ve been entrepreneurs for nine years now my wife Melissa and I and when we couldn’t have done it in the beginning without a great bank in Camden National and the Small Business Administration basically holding our hands in the beginning,” he said. “The early advice I got was make sure you get an outstanding bank, make sure you get a great lawyer and make sure you get a great CPA and also I would throw in there make sure you get a good insurance rep too.

“So we checked all those boxes and we’re really tickled that we partnered with the right people to help make this business a success. So it’s not just the customers walking in your door, whether you have a hardware store or a bakery or a supermarket, it’s really about everybody pulling together, the support network that you have.”

“The SBA has been a great partner, they have a large portfolio of trainings, seminars,” Wedge said. “They have a tremendous amount of resources I can pick up the phone and call if needed.

“If I’m addressing any veterans out there I would encourage you to lean into them if you’re thinking about being an entrepreneur. No matter what type of business you’re looking to start they are a great place to start that journey. It’s not an easy journey but it’s a great journey that I encourage anybody to go down that path.”

U.S. Small Business Administration Maine District Office Deputy District Director Diane Sturgeon said National Veteran Small Business Week is recognized during the first week of November “so that we can recognize veteran-owned businesses and get the word out a little more about veteran-owned businesses in the community to get people to start patronizing or to encourage them to patronize more the veteran-owned businesses and also to get the word out for veterans who may want to get into business or are already in business about the resources that Will mentioned.”

She said services offered include free business counseling, training, microlenders and technical assistance, resources those looking to access them have already paid for through their tax dollars.

“One of the big reasons we wanted to recognize Will is not only is he a veteran, he gives back to veterans on Veterans Day with his gift card giveaway that he does but also because he has become a tremendous part of the community and all that he does for the community,” Sturgeon said. “He’s continued to support the veteran community, he’s a member of the local (American Legion) Post, he’s an active member of the chamber of commerce, he does everything in this town so it’s wonderful to recognize a small business owner like him.”

“He was also the 2016 SBA Veteran Owned Small Business of the Year,” she said about an organization honor previously bestowed upon Wedge.

Sturgeon said she wanted to recognize Melissa Wedge too, “We always say veterans aren’t successful if they don’t have support at home as well and the same is true for small business owners. If you are part of a small business owner’s family you have got to be as committed as that small business owner or you are not going to be as successful so we want recognize Melissa’s hard work over the years.”

Brent Folster, commercial banking officer, VP with Camden National Bank, said he worked with Wedge on a loan leading up to his purchase of the store in 2011. Folster said the team Wedge mentioned is instrumental in a small business being successful and while Wedge is very self sufficient, Folster has been a phone call away for Wedge for years.

Folster said Camden National Bank works with the U.S. Small Business Administration on many programs, “We find it very rewarding to help in the state of Maine.”

“It’s great honor to recognize a veteran-owned business that has had nine years success and I wish you more success Will and Melissa,” said Marco Capaldi, director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center. “It’s great to see businesses that are active in the community.”

Capaldi explained about 80 percent of operations he works with are start-ups and Will’s Shop ‘n Save serves as a great example to inspire others. He said his organization works with the spouses and children of veterans through classes and consultations, “so it’s a very rare example of helping the whole family.”

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