CAMDEN — From June to October, tourists swarm the village. They wander across Main and Elm streets, in and out of crosswalks. They clog up the sidewalks, staring at restaurant menus. They sit in the mini traffic jam, wondering where to park.

And Susan Michaud loves them.

Michaud, owner of Theo B. Camisole, a lingerie and women’s clothing store on Bayview Street, has lived 54 of her 58 years here, and she knows visitors keep Camden alive. She remembers the days when the Knox Woolen Mill dominated the economy, but even then, the visitors came.

As a child, she helped her father run the Camden Five & Ten store, and remembers opening at 7 a.m., six days a week, from the Fourth of July to Labor Day, because tourists bound for trips on schooners needed to buy film.

“We sold boxes and boxes of Kodak film,” she said.

Michaud has strong feelings about how Camden should market itself. On a buying trip to Texas, she encountered someone who, upon learning she was from Maine, asked, “Do you know where Camden is?” That sort of name recognition ought to be nurtured and continued, she believes, and worries that efforts to brand the region could hurt the town.

The Working Waterfront caught up with Michaud on a rainy June afternoon, as she was organizing her stock.


WW: So how much of your business is tied to tourism?


Michaud: Seventy percent.


WW: Now, tourism can be seen as Mainers on day trips and overnight trips, which the Maine Office of Tourism says is a big part of tourism. Where do those kinds of tourists tend to come from?


Michaud: The state says 60 percent of tourism in this state is from the state or other New England states.


WW: And the people you see in your shop, where do they tend to come from in Maine?


Michaud: Lots of different places. Anywhere from Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Kennebunk, all the way up north. The whole range. People come to Camden because it’s beautiful and we’re on the sea coast.


WW: And a lot of day trippers?


Michaud: A lot of day trippers and a lot of weekenders.


WW: I imagine summer is the busiest season, but do you do well in the off-season?


Michaud: We’re open year-round, we’re open seven days a week, nine months out of the year, six days a week the other three.


WW: Which shoulder season is growing more?


Michaud: September is becoming a summer month for us. We’re very happy with that. And, if the weather is nice in October, October is also a very good month for us.


WW: How would you like people who are not in the tourism business to understand tourism?


Michaud: I’ve been in a shop for 54 years. I grew up in my father’s Five & Ten. If it wasn’t for tourism, there would not be a downtown. And 99 percent of the tourists are wonderful people. You get the odd one that is hard to get along with. But it’s very rare.

They’re nice people, they appreciate our town, they appreciate the state. They think it’s lovely here. And they just want to share it with us for a few weeks.


WW: Is there a tourist behavior that irritates you?


Michaud: Really, I don’t get irritated by the tourists. Only on a rare occasion when you get somebody who comes in and they don’t like the town, and they’re not having a good time. They’re unhappy. But that is so rare.


WW: Do you worry about Camden becoming too dependent on tourism?


Michaud: Camden has always depended on tourism. We’re the oldest state in the nation and Knox County is the oldest county in the state. How much do you need in your 60s and 70s? We need tourism.

The people come, and they’re having a good time and they shop here. We have many local people who shop locally and support us. But there aren’t enough people.

It’s always been that way.


WW: What states tend to be represented [in your visitors]?


Michaud: Texas is very well represented, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York and Boston, Mass. And then last year I had people from Iowa and Michigan, wanting to come to the coast.


WW: Is intimate apparel, which is not all you have here, but is this an impulse buy?


Michaud: No. I do a lot of bridal. Everyone needs to wear underwear, so”¦ [laughs]. We’re about 60 percent intimate apparel and about 40 percent casual wear, formalwear, accessories, so we have something for everybody. And that’s what you have to do to run a business in this town. [Customers range in age from] anywhere between 30 and 80.


WW: And I’ve heard people say a rainy summer can actually be good for business. Is that true?


Michaud: No. I think people who want to shop in the rain will go to Freeport where the stores are two seconds apart, or go to a mall.


WW: Let’s hope we have a good summer.


Michaud: We’re praying!