A check on small businesses in Bangor 2 years after the start of COVID-19

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Jolain’s Gourmet Catering shifted gears to survive, and Antique Alley closed permanently.

BANGOR, Maine — For many businesses large and small, the pandemic has felt like a roller coaster ride, as they try to keep their heads above water.

Luckily for Tropical Tastes and Styles, the store in Bangor recently reopened.

After being closed for two years, owner Angela Okafor said she felt confident enough to restock the store. In addition to unique and international items, she has African-inspired clothing and even a hair braiding section.

Okafor said his shop fills an unmet need in the area.

“We don’t offer the typical things you’ll see at Walmart or Shaw’s or Hannaford, so we try to provide those services that people can’t find here,” Okafor said. “I was worried. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to come back here, but we’ve had so much support from the community.”

Okafor said its shelves are now stocked and it is holding an official re-opening on Saturday at noon at its store at 347 Harlow St. in Bangor.

“The pandemic forced us to close our doors due of course to having children and too many other personal and life issues,” Okafor said.

“We have food and stuff from Africa, the Caribbean. We have Asia. We have Hispanic countries,” Okafor said.

She says the love and support from the community gave her the boost she needed to turn the lights back on.

“There were so many times where I worried,” she said. “I was afraid of not being able to come back here.”

Some companies had to change their plans and try other ideas to stay profitable.

In Greater Bangor, for example, Jolain’s Gourmet Catering & Event Planning has shifted primarily from wedding catering to packaging and selling their mac and cheese.

With so many weddings canceled, the business owner turned to manufacturing and delivering products to supermarkets in small towns.

“It blossomed from there, with other people asking for it and so on. So here we are, a year and a half later,” Jolain Cameron said. “It was a year in November, and it’s a pretty loaded product.”

Now his mac and cheese is available at Paradise Shop’n Save in Brewer; the Tozier Family Market in Brewer, Searsport and Bucksport; at the IGAs of Orono and Calais; at Danforth’s Down Home supermarket in Hermon; and at the Corner Store on Hammond Street in Bangor.

“In an effort to try to get an income, a more regular income just to be able to keep the business going, I thought, ‘You know, this macaroni and cheese is very popular,'” Cameron said.

His creative side is precisely what has kept him in business.

“Now people can just take it from the fridge to the oven and bake it, and it would be exactly like they would have at one of our events,” Cameron said.

You asked for it, we got it! Gourmet “Bacon” mac and cheese from Jolain! The following stores have it on their shelves because we…

posted by Jolain’s Gourmet Catering & Event organization to Friday, March 5, 2021

Unfortunately, not all companies have been able to bounce back.

Antique Alley in downtown Bangor, for example, closed after its owner died from COVID-19. The family announced their intention to sell the business later this year.

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