Summertime in the Belgrades
June 29 – July 5
by Martha F. Barkley
"Roxanne Quimby, Burt's Bees, and Her Quest for a New National Park" was headlines last summer, 2017. This summer it was her son, Lucas St. Clair in the headlines, running for office in the recent primary election.*
Practically every time you make a purchase, the famed Burt's Bees lip balm is right there at the cash register. The other evening we lit our pumpkin candle glowing in the dark on the screened in porch, listening to the lake waves hitting the rocks. A fellow reader gave these Burt's Bees souvenir candles at our Belgrade Library Book discussion because Queen Bee was her favorite history from the summer before.
Thomaston author Phyllis Austin wrote a comprehensive 2015 biography of Quimby and history of her very successful Burt's Bees business. It was not easy research. Austin persevered and gained personal access beyond the public record.
The Harvard Study alone would make Roxanne Quimby one of the most successful business women in the United States. She had the brave idea and wherewithal to move her business from Guilford, Maine to the Raleigh, NC into its thriving Research Triangle. Roxanne even wanted to move her business back to her beloved Maine, but the obstacles were surmounted and the business continued to grow.
What did she do with all those profits? She sold the business and came home to Maine and bought land near where she and her husband had built their home in the woods. They had twins, a boy and a girl, in 1978. The children were raised in the back-to-the-land movement with no electricity and growing one's own food.
Soon after the children were born, Roxanne found herself raising them by herself. It is odd to read in this thorough history that the famed bearded Burt of Burt's Bees was rather uninvolved with the work of the business. He certainly steals the show in the advertising! Roxanne credits her Russian grandmother's food stand at Revere Beach with her initial interest in natural products. The first year Quimby sold candles at an immediate yearly profit….Unusual success for a beginning.
No wonder she kept at the hard work. As a girl, she was constantly challenged by her father to match funds. When she entered the Univ. of Mass. she had to match her dad's $5,000. No wonder she dropped out (with her live-in boyfriend) and eventually earned her degree at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972.
Her son Lucas became politically involved in the controversial gift of land towards a new national park. Apparently Trump's sending [U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan] Zinke did not change the [Katahdin Woods and Waters] National Monument declared by Obama. Lucas graciously conceded the primary election to [state Rep. Jared] Golden [of Lewiston] even though the final count is not in yet as of this date.
Read about how Roxanne, a single mother, raised her twins in the back woods of Maine. Read about her business sense and trials and final success. Read about her gift of land to Maine and Mainers and visitors who enjoy the natural beauty of our unequalled state. Read to learn the real story of accomplishment and twins who make their mother proud.
*Editor's Note: Lucas St. Clair competed in a four-way Democratic primary for Maine's Second District U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Bruce Polliquin. He came in second, losing to State Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston. The district, which is geographically the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi contains the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, created from 87,500 acres of undeveloped land donated to the federal government by Roxanne Quimby.