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Clash of business, lifestyle demands sinks Brunswick sustainability store

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Clash of business, lifestyle demands sinks Brunswick sustainability store

BRUNSWICK — An eco-friendly retail goods store on Maine Street is closing this month.

The owners of Shift Sustainable Home Goods said they're not going out of business because they weren't doing well financially. In fact, they said, the business was profitable.

But in an ironic twist, Corie Washow and Rob Schulz said the workload of running the place was forcing them to ignore their own eco-friendly values.

"We hoped we could find a way to live sustainably at home and have a sustainable business," Washow said, "and a small business is very much a lifestyle in and of itself. Both of these things take a lot of time and focus, and between our two little brains, we couldn't make that work."

The married couple said with the level of sustainability they wanted to reach – that is, living in a way that is good for environment – running the store wasn't viable.

For the past two years, Washow has been managing store operations while Schulz helped when he wasn't working as a teacher at West Bath School. 

"The community has been incredibly supportive," Washow said, "and the issue was not that this community wouldn't support the business. It was that we were exhausted."

Washow and Schulz said they would like to live off their land as much as possible. That includes producing and preserving their own food, gathering wood for heating fuel, and reduced dependency on motor vehicles.

Shift began as a Pleasant Street satellite location of the Belfast-based Green Store in 2004, operated by Fred Horch.

Horch bought the business in 2006, moved it to Maine Street, and changed the name to F.W. Horch Sustainable Goods & Supplies.

He ran the store until selling it in 2011 to Washow and Schulz, who changed the name to Shift.

The former owner said Shift's closure will leave a gap in the community for sustainable home goods. And because it also offered classes and meetings about sustainable living, Horch said big-box stores won't be able to fill that niche.

"I was hoping they would be able to find new owners," he said, "but I know it's not an easy thing to run a retail store on Maine Street on Brunswick."

Washow joked that every store should announce its closing at least once because of the outpouring of support that has come from the community.

"People really take the time to say they appreciate you being here and all your hard work and you'll be missed," she said. "The people have been really lovely."

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.