Popular Presque Isle sporting goods store closed, citing COVID and online shopping


PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – After more than 15 years in business, Ben LeBlanc is closing its doors at Ben’s Trading Post, a store that has become a favorite for hunting and outdoor enthusiasts.

A growing medical marijuana business from Caribou purchased the building.

LeBlanc announced a discontinuance sale on Saturday and closed the doors for good that afternoon. Until then, Ben’s Trading Post was the only store in the Presque Isle area selling outdoor clothing, shoes, shotguns and ammunition in one location.

After 16 years in business, Ben’s Trading Post closed on Saturday, a move owner Ben LeBlanc attributes to online shopping and inventory shortages linked to the pandemic. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / The Star Herald)

The shutdown marks the latest in a growing list of longtime businesses shutting down, citing online shopping and difficulties obtaining inventory during the COVID-19 pandemic. As recently as last week, Houlton’s last furniture store, Furniture and Floors North, announced it was closing for similar reasons.

The building at 719 Main Street was sold to Richardson Rentals, LLC, which owns and operates Richardson Remedies, a medical marijuana store in Caribou, LeBlanc said.

Richardson Remedies is seeking approval for a medical marijuana license from Presque Isle City Council, which will vote on the issue at its September 29 meeting. If approved, the company will open its second store in the old Trading Post location. The company had previously been approved for a medical marijuana license for 745 Main Street, which currently houses the Oriental Pearl restaurant.

LeBlanc said several factors, including online shopping and inventory shortages linked to COVID-19, played a role in his decision to sell the store. He has no plans to move, although he said it remains a possibility.

“There was a demand for everything, not just guns,” said LeBlanc. “Between ammunition and weapons, clothes and shoes, we just couldn’t do without the products we needed and wanted. Once we couldn’t get enough inventory, we didn’t need to have that many employees.

Prior to opening Ben’s Trading Post, LeBlanc worked for Roy’s Army & Navy, a sporting goods store owned by the late Dana Packard. When that store closed, LeBlanc bought the business, renamed it Ben’s Trading Post, and moved to the corner of Chapman Street and Riverside Drive.

Over the years, LeBlanc’s Main Street location has become a favorite spot for hunting enthusiasts. LeBlanc said his favorite memories are helping people find exactly the right gear for their outdoor adventures.

“The kids who came to me missing to get their first gun or hunting boots or to have their first animal tagged on our scales,” said LeBlanc. “There were a lot of good memories. We even had an employee who got married in the store right after it opened.

Although customers in the Presque Isle area have remained supportive over the past few years, LeBlanc noted that online shopping options made shopping more convenient for people who lived in more remote areas of Aroostook.

He urged people to continue supporting local businesses, especially as the pandemic and online shopping continue to make operating these businesses a challenge.

“For businesses trying to stay open, it comes down to the people of Aroostook County,” said LeBlanc. “They will decide who will be here [in the future]. “

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