The Rankin’s Difference will remain the same

Two longtime Camden family businesses forge new future as Rankin’s becomes part of Viking Lumber

Sun, 08/20/2023 - 11:45pm

    Rankin’s Hardware and Supply, on Union Street in Camden, counts amongst the friendliest stores in the Midcoast. Customers are greeted as they walk in the door, with a “Can I help you?” or if they are regulars, a familiar greeting by name. It has been that way for a long time, a legacy that dates back to when Frank Rankin was running the place. Or maybe it started with his parents before him, who established the hardware and lumber store in 1952.

    Some of the Rankin’s favorite faces are missing now. Frank is gone, so is Swiss Hardy, who worked there for 50 years, and David Barrows, who died several years ago, but the community remembers them all. And others are still there, including Lisa Burgess, who took over managing the store when her father, Frank, died. 

    All 11 current employees have worked at Rankin’s for some time, and they are like family. That’s evident the moment you enter, given the banter and ease of service. When Lisa began thinking last winter about divesting the store, it made sense that she would seek a company with similar values, perhaps another family-owned venture. In the spring, she got in touch with David Flanagan, at Viking Lumber.

    “I called David one day and asked if he was interested, and he said, ‘sure, we’ll talk,’” she said. “And, we talked. I knew that if I was going to sell, this was going to maybe be my best choice.”

    Her first priority was that all the employees remain, and that remains the case.

    “Everyone stays, including me,” said Burgess. “The sign out front will stay the same. That was something that David wanted because the name Rankin’s means something to the community here.”

    The deal was sealed this month, when Viking Lumber officially purchased Rankin’s Hardware and Supply, plus its two real estate parcels: the two parcels on Union Street that approximately 1.4 acres in size, and the barn and parcel in Hope.

    Viking Lumber has long roots in the community, as well, and both are family-owned enterprises: Rankin’s was established in 1952 by Edna and Austin Rankin, who originally worked for F. J. Wiley at 4 Union Street, just down the road from the existing Rankin’s current store, while Viking Lumber was founded by Judson Flanagan and his brother-in-law, Gene Rich, in Belfast, first as a lumber mill and then a supply center.

    While Rankin’s had moved up the road in 1952 when Frank’s parents went into business by themselves with the store Rankin’s Grain, Viking Lumber was growing and expanding in Belfast, and then to points across the state.

    For the past five years, since Frank Rankin died, Rankin’s has been under the management of Burgess, while Viking Lumber is under the ownership and management of siblings David, Maureen, Gene and Erin Flanagan. The two families are Camden born and bred, of the same generation, and have known each other all their lives. The same holds for Rankin’s employees – Nancy and Kathy have worked at Rankin’s for 30 to 40 years, and they all went to high school with the Flanagans.

    “I had been thinking about what I was going to do,” said Burgess, in mid-July. “I have nobody else who wants to take on the business in the family, and I had been thinking for quite awhile, what is the best way to do this, and to keep the employees.”

    She wanted the business to stay intact, but she was also mulling over shutting it down completely.

    “Do I shut it down completely and liquidate, and then what am I going to do with the property,” she asked herself.

    But an agreement with Viking was forged, and by early summer, details were getting worked out.

    Little will change with the acquisition, but there will be minor adjustments to product lines, and lumber will be added to the yard. Currently, Viking crews are at working fixing some of the buildings, “to the way they want them,” said Burgess, who will remain manager at the store.

    With Rankin’s, Viking Lumber will include 11 stores around the Midcoast.

    “It’s going to be business as usual,” she said. 

    Clarence Keller said the news as it filters across town lines has been positive.

    “The response of the community has been, ‘you guys made the right decision,’ and ‘this is the right match,’” he said. “Our customers are happy, especially knowing that the staff will all remain the same, and what they’ve come to expect — the Rankin’s Difference will continue.”

    To Burgess, the longevity of family businesses is important. She remembers her father at the store, early morning into late evening. Sometimes he would get called in on a Sunday to open the store for a customer needing a particular item.

    “He was here at 4 a.m., and have lunch at this table [the current kitchen office], and my grandmother would make it,” she said. “We’d have family gatherings over here. When I was growing up, there were grain bags in the back, we’d go out and play store with my cousins, and climb on the grain bags.”

    Family ancestors, centuries of them, are buried, “up at Ducktrap,” said Burgess. That is where her parents lie.

    Frank Rankin’s focus was, “always about taking care of the customer,” said Keller.

    “There are not too many family businesses that stay a long time,” Burgess said. “You just don’t see that too much any more in a town like this. It means something. I’d like to keep that going, and I think joining forces with Viking, we will be able to do that.”

    It makes financial sense, too, said Keller.

    “It is only going to enhance what we offer our customers,” he said. “It’s a win for Rankin’s, it’s a win for Viking, and it’s a win for our customers.”

    Customer service is, “what we do,” said Keller. “It is the Rankin’s difference.”

    Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at; 207-706-6657