Renys Comes to Portland, Maine

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Renys is a local Maine-based retailer that has 14 locations in Maine.  Most of their stores are usually located in small or mid-sized towns throughout the state.  For example, one of their stores is in Gardiner, Maine and can be seen in the Gardiner Town Picture Gallery.

Now, according to a Portland Press Herald editorial, they are coming to Portland, Maine:

It’s a Maine institution that began in the 1940s when the late Robert Reny began driving to Bridgton to open his shop when business got slow at his Damariscotta store.

The chain currently has 14 locations, typically in downtowns of small and midsize Maine cities. It competes with the big guys through a mix of odd-lot bargains and a dependable line of first-quality clothes, shoes and housewares.

I’ve worked in close proximity to two Renys stores, and can personally attest that there is something intoxicating about the bargains. It’s been more than 10 years since those days, but I still have a flannel shirt, a pair of boots and my kids’ sleeping bags that I bought when I was trying to get over writer’s block.

Renys will take the space that L.L. Bean vacated when it moved its outlet store this autumn. Bean is an iconic Maine business — maybe it’s the iconic Maine business — but it does not send the message that Renys does.

A Bean outlet might be a strong attraction for someone driving through town or visiting on a cruise ship, and plenty of those visitors made their way up from the waterfront when they came through.

Renys won’t have the same appeal to them, but it will to the people who live in the city and either can’t or choose not to drive everywhere. Getting a Renys tells the world that this is not just a tourist destination. People live here.

You never know where the next revolution is going to get started, but this old-fashioned Maine department store could be the whiff of grapeshot that sets one off.

The nice folks at Renys are not trying to change the world, they are just looking for a place to sell stuff.

But by making it easier to get by without a car, by making the downtown a more attractive place to live and work and by making a livable city a little more livable, this development could help tip a balance, giving those who want it a cheaper and greener alternative to life in the suburbs.

One store won’t do it alone, but the collective confidence of people and businesses believing in the city can make a big difference.

Welcome to Portland, Renys. We’ve been waiting for you.

We agree, general retailing of this nature is a good sign for downtowns throughout Northern New England.  There are many retailers, like Renys, that choose to locate downtown and have helped keep many of them alive.  If you have that choice, please go and shop at those stores because they are doing your town, and the buildings they help preserve, a big service.

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