When Brad Ryder opened his shop, Epic Sports, in downtown Bangor 25 years ago, he figured he'd be well equipped to make a go of it.  He was both a fan of what the great state of Maine has to offer by way of outdoor activities, and he knew a thing or two about how the retail world worked. Prior to opening his own shop in 1997, Ryder had worked for another legendary Maine sports shop, Cadillac Mt. Sports.

Downtown Bangor 8, Cori Skall
Downtown Bangor 8, Cori Skall
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"It's gone fast. It really has...I've always had an interest in the outdoors and have been in retail all my life."

Epic Sports 2, Google
Epic Sports 2, Google
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Ryder said he was unsure how it would all turn out at first, as about a month after he first opened for business more than two decades ago, there was a big announcement made that a major competitor, Eastern Mountain Sports, was going to open a pilot store in the Bangor Mall. But that never came to be, and Epic Sports has been one of the go-to spots to get outdoor gear in the greater Bangor area.

Epic Sports 1, Google
Epic Sports 1, Google
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Ryder says he's witnessed the downtown Bangor retail scene change over his years on the corner of Central Street.

Downtown Bangor 1, Cori Skall
Downtown Bangor 1, Cori Skall
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"So when we opened back in 1997, there were a lot more boarded up windows at the storefronts, rather than viable businesses, so it really was taking a chance for downtown. If you go way, way back, downtown was the shopping district before the mall, so it's been a real interesting big circle.

Downtown Bangor 14, Cori Skall
Downtown Bangor 14, Cori Skall
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"Now there's a very vibrant downtown. Lots of neat shops, restaurants, and places to go to. It has taken a few years for sure, but a lot of shops are doing just a great job downtown. Not to mention the residents who have really become a vibrant part of downtown, as well."

Downtown Bangor 17, Cori Skall
Downtown Bangor 17, Cori Skall
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"I think I'm ready for the next chapter. I have four grandkids that I'd like to spend more time with. One of the things I've always said to people who've wanted to work for me when they'd say 'I like the outdoors!' is I'd say 'Remember, this is an indoor job. So we all have that common love of the outdoors and of Maine. I just want to get out there and enjoy the paddling and the hiking that I've been talking about for the last 25 years. I want to get out there and enjoy it."

Downtown Bangor 12, Cori Skall
Downtown Bangor 12, Cori Skall
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"Certainly, there's a great opportunity for someone... There very well could be someone in the wings that's thinking 'Gee, I need to open up an outdoor gear shop,' and this might help."

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Ryder says they will have a big "retirement" sale going on at the store until the end of the month, and once some of the inventory clears out, he'll have a better idea of when Epic's doors will close for good.

Downtown Bangor 13, Cori Skall
Downtown Bangor 13, Cori Skall
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He says he looks forward to seeing the customers and friends who he's made through the years, for a final time.

"I know it sounds cliche, but we couldn't do it without our customers. They've been so supportive since day one, and keep coming back and supporting us and our events. It's just been phenomenal. Definitely gonna miss that part. "

Downtown Bangor 6, Cori Skall
Downtown Bangor 6, Cori Skall
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Ryder says his landlord for all this time has been the City of Bangor (who co-owns the building with the University of Maine) and he does not know what plans the City might have for the space once he leaves. But if someone is looking to open a business downtown, he does have some parting words of advice.

Downtown Bangor 15, Cori Skall
Downtown Bangor 15, Cori Skall
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"I have to borrow it from a retired businessman, John Rohman, because it was one of his favorite expressions: 'You have to have that fire in the belly.' You have to want to do this kind of business, but if you have the passion, you can be successful and there's a lot of opportunities."

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