“If it has a blade we can sharpen it.”

Meet Larry.

FOR LARRY PLAISTED, life has been a long, winding, sometimes tortuous road. At long last, it has brought him to North Ellsworth where he runs a highly unusual and amazingly profitable company called MMP Services, Inc.Surprise number one, Millmark isn’t known for its products, but for its sharpening abilities. Larry sharpens all kinds of things—scissors, knives, sawblades, pretty much anything with an edge. At first blush, Millmark seems hopelessly old-fashioned. Let’s face it, we have developed a disposable society. When things don’t work like new, we throw them away. We buy new scissors, new knives, new sawblades. These days who takes things to be sharpened?

So how has Millmark’s annual gross gotten to hundreds of thousands of dollars?

The answer would seem to lie in Larry Plaisted’s unusual abilities and irresistible character traits combining to make him a virtually unstoppable force.

For Larry, nothing’s come easy. Born in the Maine hamlet of Limerick, he moved to Ellsworth 30 years ago with few real prospects. His recently acquired wife had landed a job teaching math. Larry got a job in Brewer teaching industrial arts. He held that job for six years before accepting a similar position at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. He ended up wearing several hats—teaching classes in woodworking, metal work, and small engine repair as well as adult ed sessions in wood and metal working as well as drafting.

During the eighties, Larry moved about quite a bit. He worked in a couple of different boatyards; at one point he was doing the woodworking for Able Marine. From there he went to Downeast Graphics where he was bindery foreman. After leaving here, he worked for E.L. Shea. Among other things, he helped build the Surry Schoolhouse. “Then I got fed up with that and went out on my own,” he says. “I built a couple of houses and renovated some older places.

Then disaster struck. Following a divorce and remarriage, he got sick. Larry says he was down for all of ‘89 and well into ‘90. It started with flu, went to pneumonia, developed into viral meningitis, which somehow became mono. “I had each of these things all rolled into one,” Larry says. At one point he went 30 days with a temperature of 104. This should have fried his brain. He says he did lose several months of memory. He was left with CFS—Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

It wasn’t until June of ‘90 that he started to get better. “The doctor explained it was like a battery,” Larry says. “You run it way down, it my never come back. But I was lucky and I came back. I still suffer from the heat and humidity during the hot part of the summer. I probably never will come back a hundred percent.

During this period, one of Larry’s good friends was also having problems. Mostly these were financial—his business had gone bust. He was left with an old bus filled with equipment. “I asked him what he was going to do with it, and he said, ‘sell it to you’.” Larry says he was pretty much destitute at that time, but he agreed to pay whatever he could each month. This was the inauspicious beginning of MMP Services, Inc. In February of 1990, Larry opened up shop on the Surry Road

I began recover in the spring of 1990—at the time I had three businesses, sharpening, cabinetry, and ceramics,” Larry recalls. “As it played out, the sharpening service just kept growing bigger, and bigger and bigger.

Then in 1991, Larry lost three family members. His grandmother died in March, his wife died in August, and his father passed two weeks after that. The next year, he married Vicki, his present wife. Maybe Vicki was something of a good luck charm. For the next decade, things went rather smoothly. He moved to his present location in 1999 and was able to acquire good equipment from several failed businesses.

Then in 2003, disaster struck once again. Larry’s business suffered a devastating fire. For a year he was forced to operate from a business in Hermon—one that ultimately failed. “That January we had a week to move everything back to Ellsworth,” he says. “We strung up lights—extension cords ran everywhere. We had heat running before we even had a door.

Somehow or other, Larry has taken it all in stride. He has not simply survived, he has thrived. Larry says that in April of 2005, his business was 28 percent ahead of where it had been the previous year. By that time, he had three people on the road selling, two in the shop, and an office manager. He says the building needs a few finishing touches and he is looking to buy a few more pieces of equipment.

Life has taught Larry to be wary, but still he describes himself as cautiously optimistic. “I would have to say we definitely are encouraged,” he says.