2012-07-20 / Community

A ‘Bull Moose’ soon to enter city plaza

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Bull Moose is moving into South Portland.

The local music, movie and game store plans to add its 11th location when it opens in Mill Creek this fall in the building that used to be occupied by Blockbuster. The South Portland Planning Board approved Bull Moose’s design plan for the new building in a meeting on Tuesday, July 10.

“We love the Mill Creek area and we feel like the site has good visibility,” said Bull Moose founder and President Brett Wickard.

“It’s cool because (Mill Creek) is a shopping area, but also a community area. You can walk and you can get there by bike.”

Chuck Igo, a South Portland resident and radio morning show host on Big Hits Y100.9, said the new Bull Moose will be “a great convenience” for the city’s residents, as well as an opportunity for local musicians to receive more exposure. He also hopes the new store will encourage other business owners to expand and grow in South Portland.

“I look at it from the business standpoint that (Bull Moose) believes in the area.

“You hate to see businesses go out and nothing go in ... You don’t want to see buildings go long dormant, so it’s really a nice opportunity for Mill Creek,” Igo said.

The South Portland store will become the ninth Bull Moose to open up in Maine; there are also two locations in New Hampshire. Wickard said Bull Moose is in “expansion mode” and would consider more new locations, but over the past few years the company’s priority has been to remodel and expand current stores.

The design plans call for Bull Moose to add about 4,000 additional square feet to the 7,000-square-foot, vacant building at 219 Waterman Drive. Wickard said the store will look and feel very similar to the Scarborough store, and like the Scarborough store, the Mill Creek Bull Moose will sell books.

South Portland Planning Director Tex Haeuser said that triggered some concern from the planning board “over what effect this business might have on the very beloved Nonesuch Books business.”

Nonesuch Books and Cards is also located in the Mill Creek area at 50 Market St., just a few hundred feet from the proposed Bull Moose store. But Wickard said despite the proximity, he believes the presence of Bull Moose will boost Nonesuch Book’s sales.

“In most areas that we’re in, we hopefully bring more people to the area, and kind of a rising tide raises all ships,” Wickard told the planning board at the July 10 meeting. “So people, instead of shopping on the Internet, will hopefully be shopping again in South Portland.”

Haeuser said the planning board seemed satisfied with Wickard’s explanation of how the two stores could coexist. Planning Board member Caroline Hendry offered another reason the two stores should complement each other.

“Your services are different from Nonesuch in lots of ways,” she told Wickard. “You might appeal to a younger crowd.”

Nonesuch Books and Cards owner Jon Platt had no comment on the new Bull Moose store. Platt is also the vice president of the South Portland Buy Local organization.

The South Portland Bull Moose will be located less than six miles from the store in Scarborough, and the Bull Moose in downtown Portland is even closer to Mill Creek – just over two miles from the Waterman Drive site. But Wickard said he’s not worried about the proximity of the stores, as there are enough neighborhoods close to each location to make all the Bull Moose locations in the area successful.

“They really hit different markets,” Wickard said of the three Portland-area locations. “We try to pay attention to where our customers are coming from. The stores are in relatively close proximity but don’t necessarily compete with one another. If you live downtown, you’re probably not popping over the bridge to Mill Creek.”

Planning board member William Laidley echoed Wickard’s optimism.

“I think you’re going to tap into a whole other customer base on this side of the city,” Laidley said.

Wickard started Bull Moose in 1989 when he was a student at Bowdoin College in Bruswick. He said his original business plan was flimsy and the first year was “dicey.” He said no one would lease a space to him, “which was smart on their part,” and once he did have a location, he would try to balance the store’s books on the floor of his college dorm.

But once Bull Moose got off the ground, Wickard said it has expanded consistently, and business has grown despite constant change in the music industry that has sunk many music stores. Digital music sales in 2011 were higher than physical sales that year for the first time in history, according to a music industry report released in January from Billboard magazine and the Nielsen Company.

But the trend toward digital music hasn’t stopped Bull Moose.

“Those of us who love to go into a store and buy a physical CD or album, we prefer concrete things,” Igo said.

He still prefers his music on CDs that he can hold, as opposed to digital MP3s, but its not just people similar to Igo who keep Bull Moose in business, Wickard said, it’s the shared experience of music that fuels his store.

“One great thing about New England is that we are a giant community here. We have killer customers and an awesome Bull Moose crew. Music is about connecting people. Our stores should be an entertainment meeting point for our community. The staff should be into it, and those things can only happen in person,” Wickard said. “We’re not selling shampoo ... our belief is that (buying music) is an authentic experience, something physical and real, and we can continue to show that’s valuable to folks.”

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