Rosen's First Century


if you’ve been around for a hundred years you’ve seen plenty of bubbles, burstings, and bright beginnings, and nothing this side of Armageddon gets you all that excited.

That could explain Richard Rosen’s laid-back lack of giddiness over the impending 100th anniversary of the haberdashery that bears his name on Main Street in Bucksport.

Asked if there would be brass bands or big cakes or dancing girls, he plainly hadn’t given the matter much if any thought.

“I suppose we really ought to do something,” he mused. “Right now I really am not sure just what.”

All in good time. It's not like Rosen hasn't had plenty else to occupy his mind. For the past 12 years, he has helped navigate the State of Maine through turbulent fiscal waters. He has just completed his sixth term in the State Legislature, three in the House, three in the Senate. He is up for re-election in November and is planning his campaign. He was non-commital when asked if he was eyeing the Blain House. His wife Kimberley also has served three terms in the House, and will be running for a fourth.

Whatever it is he does to celebrate the centennial of his business, you can be sure it’ll be done with dignified good taste. Anything else would simply be unrosenlike.

There aren't many businesses in Maine with longer histories. Rosen said he doesn't knows how many there are, but pointed out that the Collins family has been in logging in Aroostook County for over a century. (The record, we believe, belongs to S.L. Wadsworth & Son in Eastport, a marine supply outfit founded in 1818 that has been in the same family for six generations.)

Rosen's, which began ambitiously in 1910 as Rosen's Department Store, was started by Robert and Sarah Rosen in Baileyville, a community just north of Calais. It was there for 19 years before moving to Bucksport. The move, in a sense, was the more or less direct result of an energy crisis with a twist: the area had too much energy.

In 1929, at the dawn of the Great Depression, things were booming in Bucksport. Central Maine Power had excess capacity, and had joined forces with Wyman to build a paper mill. Time-Life was was having problems finding coated stock, so a mill would not only burn plenty of electricity, but would almost certainly be highly profitable. At the same time, the Waldo-Hancock suspension bridge was being built, bringing hundreds of construction workers to the area. The Rosens, shrewd business people that they were, recognized a golden opportunity to bring a quality clothing store to town.

Philosophically, Rosen's has stayed consistent. Offered are personal service, quality merchandise, and affordable prices. Brands on hand include Woolrich, Levis, Tribal, Keds, along with Haggar, Dickies, Carhartt, Alfred Dunner, Playtex, and Wigwam; plus rugged, functional footwear from Wolverine, Carolina, Hush Puppies, Dansko, Rocky, Kamik, and Muck Boots.

Rosen says he takes special pride in his complete line of Pendleton clothing, which includes mens 100 percent virgin wool crew neck sweaters, soft lambswool v-neck sweaters, and men's corduroy slacks. “We also stock Pendleton's famous wool blankets and several special women's sportswear collections,” he adds.

Richard represents the third generation of Rosens to run the store. He took over from his parents, Lawrence and Lillian, in 1985.

His reign hasn't been without challenges. With Walmarts in Belfast, Brewer, and Ellsworth, he is surrounded by stores offering vast inventories.

“Main Street businesses has its work cut out providing the diversity, quality, and personal service people expect,” Rosen says. “People will continue to demand value for their money.”

His may be a hard row to hoe, but he remains optimistic.

“For us, it's been gratifying to realize that in many instances we are serving the third and fourth generation of customers. Our customers have been very loyal. Many of our customers return again and again because they appreciate the small store experience.”

It's an experience people have appreciated for the past five decades and may well appreciate for the next five.