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March 22, 2011 | last updated December 1, 2011 12:13 pm
Portlandbiz

Questions remain amid Maine Cottage closure

Photo/Rebecca Goldfine
Photo/Rebecca Goldfine
A sign outside Maine Cottage in Yarmouth says it is temporarily closed, but its future remains unclear
Photo/David A. Rodgers
Maine Cottage General Manager Dave Petersen, left, and owner Peter Bass in a Mainebiz file photo from April 2002

Maine Cottage, an upscale furniture and home decorating store in Yarmouth, has suddenly closed, leaving behind unanswered questions for customers and vendors.

Even officials at the local chamber of commerce are baffled. "We've been getting calls for weeks," Administrator Jules Mellor says. "No one is answering phones at the store." But since Maine Cottage, which also has locations in Florida and South Carolina, is not a member of the Yarmouth chamber, Mellor had little information about what happened to the business.

"We don't know," she admits, "which is weird because it's a small town," and people generally spread the word about local goings-on.

Maine Cottage's two other stores in West Palm Beach and Charleston have also shut down, according to a report by The Palm Beach Post. Recently, the darkened Yarmouth location at Lower Falls Landing on Lafayette Street had two signs on its doors, one in small typed print reading, "Maine Cottage is temporarily closed." Across the hall, in the other half of the store, another sign stated that this side of the store would have a grand reopening in the spring after being remodeled. But a former contractor and employee say most of the staff has been laid off, and it is unclear whether the store owner, Peter Bass, has any plans to reopen.

Bass did not return a message relayed to him by an acquaintance, and calls to his store in Yarmouth and another listed number for him were unanswered. An e-mail to the store bounced back. The last entry on the store's blog is dated Feb. 14.

To date, Maine Cottage, which was started by Bass and his ex-wife, Carol, in 1988, has not filed for bankruptcy. And the Maine Attorney General's office has not received any formal complaints from customers, according to the office's spokeswoman, Brenda Kielty.

Brian Haddock, the president of Furniturea in Portland, which made wood furniture for Maine Cottage since 1992, says Maine Cottage had been trying to find a new owner in the weeks leading up its closing, and that he and another investor had made an offer to KeyBank, which he says is the store's primary lender.

"At one point we wanted to buy the entire business and keep it going," he says. "Then later on the bank decided to liquidate the assets. We put a bid on some of the assets, but the bank hasn't gotten back to us."

A spokeswoman for KeyBank says no one at the bank can comment at this time because the situation with Maine Cottage is still being negotiated.

Haddock says he knew Maine Cottage had been struggling for a while, but that the suddenness of its closing still came as a shock. "It wasn't a surprise that they closed," he says. "It just seem like in an instant, they were there one minute and gone the next."

Haddock also made an offer to fill the unfinished orders of Maine Cottage customers. "We were working to cover all those orders, that was part of the deal with KeyBank," he says. Now that the deal with the bank has fallen through, he says it's not likely he will be able to do this.

"This is a company that has a good name and has been around for 20 years," Haddock says. "To disappear this quickly and leave so many folks holding their pocket book. ... Everyone I know who is associated with the company is puzzled by this."

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