UMF Alumni Anchors Economic Development in Historic Mill Town

Derek Taber, Contributing Writer

    The Hotel Rumford in Rumford, ME is celebrating its 130-year anniversary and UMF alumni Melissa Carrier is at the helm of a growing economy for this small mountain town.

    Carrier, who graduated from UMF in 2009, has owned and operated the historic hotel and bar with her husband, Brian, for the last year and a half. Carrier is changing the vision and atmosphere of the staple establishment, and leading the charge of a growing economy. Once considered a dying mill town, Rumford has seen lowered unemployment, and a rejuvenated workforce, allowing room for growth and opportunity in the emboldened community.

    George O’Keefe, the director of economic development for the town of Rumford, was hired to stimulate business growth and inject new ideas for downtown businesses to reinvigorate that Rumford has ample room to thrive and succeed. “It’s very positive to see young people staying in town, and running a business,” O’Keefe says.

    The Hotel Rumford has been one of the few businesses to survive the economic downturn of the last quarter century. A shrinking logging and paper industry has been the main culprit for the lost jobs in the area. At one point there were six paper machines operating, with over 1000 blue collar jobs available. When the mill struggles, “Everyone panics,” Carrier says.

    The Hotel Rumford was a haven for loggers and paper workers, allowing a place for respite, and lift of spirit from the grueling work in the woods. “This is the heart of downtown Rumford,” says O’Keefe. The town rallies around the business and frequents the establishment often. 

    The hotel also brings in people from out of town who come to work on shutdowns and construction projects associated with the mill. 

    Carrier started her business education in her sophomore year of college. She worked in the community at the Granary Restaurant and Pub in Farmington, and summers at the Kawanhee Inn in Weld. Carrier and the future head chef of the Hotel Rumford, Scott Croteau, met when Carrier was a dishwasher at Kawanhee. “Scott is an amazing chef,” Carrier said.

    Croteau prides himself on delivering a fresh menu with local ingredients. “He makes almost everything in house,” Carrier laments.

    The Hotel Rumford has 12 employees that work at the restaurant. The economic outreach that comes from the employment is deep. “Everyone seems to know your name when you walk in to the bar,” O’Keefe says. 

    The Carriers recently did some remodeling to the hotel and restaurant to bring back the staple theme of logging to the town. They decorated the restaurant with antique saws and pictures from the town when horses and carriages roamed the streets. 

    The difference from now and 130 years ago is substantial. Recreation and vacation destinations rival the paper industry as the main catalyst for economic growth. The potential is prevalent. If people have a place to call home when they are in town, the sentiments will only grow stronger, and the future is vibrant.