The memoir of an accomplished and determined local business man of a previous generation will be the subject of a program at Museum L-A on Saturday, October 26 from 1 to 3 p.m.
“Business Boy to Business Man,” published in 2013 by Soleil Press of Lisbon Falls, traces the formative years and career of Robert “Bob” Verreault, who founded the Lewiston Machine Shop in 1946. The book describes how Verreault grew the operation from a two-person shop to one that employed more than 200 people as the Diamond Machine Company in the 1980s.
One of Verreault’s many inventions and patents was a revolutionary process that installed specialized heels on shoes. Diamond Machine eventually produced high-quality snow plows, traction aids, wood stoves and, in its most successful business line, material handling-conveyor systems.
Verreault’s success didn’t come without setbacks. Many will remember the spectacular fire of July 18, 1972 that razed the company’s facility on River Road, destroying months of production inventory that was scheduled for shipping in the coming days – and subject to being turned over to accounts receivable.
“I knew I had lost my building,” Verreault reminisces in the book. “But I was determined that I would not lose my company.”
Verreault and his staff rebuilt the enterprise, with generous help from members of the local business community. “It was a show of support that could only happen in a place like Lewiston and Auburn. Without my business colleagues, I don’t know if I could have rallied. I’m sure it would have been harder.”
Verreault’s grit and determination in fighting back from the loss was recognized in 1975, when the Small Business Administration named him “Maine Small Business Man of the Year.”
The book is published by the Memoir Network, a Lisbon Falls-based company founded in 1988 by Denis Ledoux, known locally for his work helping people write their memoirs and for his advocacy on behalf of the Franco-American culture.
“What Robert Verreault did was extraordinary,” said Ledoux, who co-authored the book. “Here was a poor boy who had a sense that he would create his own business someday. After graduating from Holy Family School, he refused to go on to high school. Instead, he began the work that would lead him to becoming a machinist and eventually to owning a company.”
The afternoon program will feature short readings by family members and a discussion of work in the Lewiston-Auburn of yesteryear. “We hope to generate stories from the audience about what life was like in the area from 1930-1960, the period of Verreault’s youth and early adulthood,” Ledoux said.
“As director of a museum dedicated to work in Lewiston and Auburn, I said ‘Yes!’ right away when we were invited to host this book launch,” said Rachel Desgroseilliers. “What better venue to celebrate the life of a man who was an innovator and inventor and created employment for hundreds of local workers in the Twin Cities?”
The program will be followed by a reception, at which light refreshments will be served. Copies of “Business Boy to Business Man” will be available for purchase.
Museum L-A is located at 25 Canal Street, at the corner of Canal and Chestnut Streets in the historic Bates Mill. Attendees are encouraged to park in the nearby Canal or Chestnut Street municipal parking garages, which are free of charge on Saturdays.
For more information, contact the Museum at 333-3881 or firstname.lastname@example.org.