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September 2, 2022

Deer Isle camp outfitting company transitions to worker co-op

cedar shingled shop with flag and lobster trap Courtesy / Island Approaches Island Approaches in Deer Isle runs a shop in Stonington as well as a camp outfitters and a promotional company. It transitioned this week to become a workers cooperative.

Island Approaches, the parent for Maine Camp Outfitters, Maine Promotional and a retail store operating in Stonington, said it transitioned from a privately-held company to a worker cooperative, effective Sept. 1.

“After 31 years, the chance to create ownership opportunities for our employees is an ideal way for me to see others take advantage of the fruits of their own labor,” Andy Fuller, the Deer Isle company’s founder and now a member of the worker cooperative, said in a news release.

The company is located in the Deer Isle village of Sunset.

The cooperative will continue as a full-service company providing branded apparel and gear and promotional products for youth camps and many schools, businesses and organizations.

Leading the cooperative as its general manager is Melissa Daniels, a Deer Isle native who has been with Maine Camp Outfitters for almost 19 years and started working there in the warehouse and shipping department.  

Kassandra Billings will serve as marketing director, Virginia Daniels will be operations manager and Robin Norton will continue as camp sales manager.

Helping guide the transition was Rob Brown, director of business ownership solutions at the Cooperative Development Institute, a Northampton, Mass., nonprofit founded in 1994 to build a cooperative economy through the creation and development of cooperative enterprises.

“The workers approached this opportunity with an incredible level of seriousness and commitment,” Brown said. 

The transition is expected to allow the company to sustainably benefit customers, the community, and a new generation of workers.

Also helping the cooperative with support, business planning and financial planning was Shannon Byers, a business advisor with the Small Business Development Center at Coastal Enterprises Inc. in Ellsworth.

Providing financing for the transition was Cooperative Fund of the Northeast, a Watertown, Mass., community development loan fund that facilitates socially responsible investing in cooperatives, community-oriented nonprofits, and worker-owned businesses in New England and adjacent communities in New York.

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