How a woman with an old-school business idea brought new life to a dying Maine town

When Amber  first moved to picturesque Skowhegan, Maine in 2001, the town was struggling to survive. Skowhegan’s tax base had been eroding for years as the industries that traditionally employed residents were shuttered, outsourced, or downsized.

Factories and plants manufacturing shoes, textiles, and paper products once dominated the town, which is nestled in the valley of the Kennebec River in the central part of the state. But as they left, nothing else came in to replace them. The loss of large-scale employers, coupled with increased competition from big box stores, decimated small businesses, leaving dozens of empty storefronts along the historic Main Street district.

In 2009, Lambke was able to purchase the town’s Victorian-era jailhouse after inmates were moved to a new county facility. The jailhouse, located downtown, was renovated using a mixture of public and private loans, grants, and crowdfunding. After years of renovation, the Somerset County Grist Mill opened in 2014 under the brand name Maine Grains.

Maineland documentaryINSIDERDowntown Skowhegan, Maine.

Since its inception, the mill has contributed to the success of new breweries, bakeries, and other businesses in the area. The mill sources grains from local farmers, and has fostered the creation of a CSA and a farmer’s market that provides local produce to area residents.

Maineland” explores a small town taking its fate into its own hands by building a future that combines old local industries with new technologies and ideas. Amber and fellow business owners are now working with the town to provide support to young people who want to start their own small businesses, and who would otherwise leave the area for more prosperous cities and regions.

Click here to watch “Maineland” on YouTube.

Learn more about the people and businesses featured in “Maineland:”

“Maineland” was directed by Stephen Parkhurst.

Director of Photography: Vasilios Sfinarolakis

Executive Producers: Nicholas Carlson, Tony Manfred, Julie Zeveloff West

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