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Family-owned Freeport business closing after 17 years

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Family-owned Freeport business closing after 17 years

FREEPORT — Play and Learn, an independently owned and operated toy store and teacher resource center store on Lower Main Street, will close by the end of the year.

After 17 years in business, owners Tom and Sandy Purington said they decided to close the store, retire early, travel and spend time with family.

"This is bittersweet for us," Sandy Purington said. "We are looking forward to retirement, but we know our decision will affect our employees and customers."

The 11,000-square-feet business sells toys, educational materials and art supplies for children of all ages. Tom Purington said it is the largest teacher resource store in New England and the only one of its kind in Maine.

Purington said when the first store opened, everything fit in a 1,500-square-foot space. They grew into a larger space a few years later, and in 2003, the couple signed a lease for their current location.

Their children have graduated from college and are not interested in taking over the business, Tom Purington said, and with an uncertain economy and budget cuts to schools, they decided it was the right time to retire.

"We are looking forward to the unwritten chapter," Tom said. "We are excited to experience a Maine summer after all these years."

Myra Hopkins, executive director of Freeport Merchants Association, said the business has provided a great service to teachers and families in Freeport and Brunswick.

"It will be sad to see them go," Hopkins said. "But with such a great space, I can't imagine it will be vacant for long. I would expect something will go in there quickly."

Sande Updegraph, executive director of Freeport Economic Development Corp., said the closure of Play and Learn will create a void in Freeport and in the state, although the building's visibility, parking and neighboring businesses could be seen as a big draw for a new tenant.

"As of now, I have had no queries in that space, but it is an attractive location," she said.

Sandy Purington said it has been difficult to break the news to loyal teachers, customers and vendors. Every customer that comes to the store to wish them luck or say thank you has made an impression, she said.

"It has been nice to know you've touched that many lives and maybe made a difference," she said. "I hope even though we are leaving, people in the community will continue to take care of independently owned stores and businesses."

Tom Purington said he is thankful to all the employees and customers who helped their business thrive.

"We are going to miss everyone," he said. "There are so many memories associated with this business, so many emotions in saying goodbye."

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net