Tim comes from a long line of French Canadians who immigrated to this country generations ago in search of a better life and found it working in the mills of western Maine, eventually settling down in Westbrook and Skowhegan.
When he was a teenager, Tim’s father was repeatedly laid off. He worked as a garage door installer well into his 50s, lifting hundreds of pounds over his head every day. His mother was a high school cafeteria worker. “We really struggled financially when I was young. We were the working poor. Still, my parents bought a house and were able to give me a better life than they had been born into. That is the American dream — and it’s a dream that very few Mainers can live today.”
Tim was the first person on his father’s side of the family to go to college, eventually earning a B.A. from the University of Southern Maine.
When he was 21 Tim was one of the first hires at Intellicare, Inc., a healthcare technology company focused on providing telemedicine services to increase access to care and lower costs. Intellicare was one of the only companies in Maine to secure venture capital in the months following the “.com” crash and was repeatedly named one of the fastest growing healthcare companies in the country until it was sold in 2005. Tim quickly rose to become a senior account manager and worked with hospital chains, physicians, and insurance companies. “I am a strong advocate for universal healthcare and many of my beliefs surrounding health care come from my experience at Intellicare.”
Tim started spending a lot of time on Mount Desert Island when he was a teenager, eventually moving there fifteen years ago. “Though I left the island briefly to finish college and work on causes I believe in, I knew pretty early on that I had found my home.”
He worked many different jobs in this period–everything from serving tables to working in a grocery store and at the local brewery. In 2008, Tim worked as a political organizer for the MSEA working around President Obama’s campaign and in 2009 worked for the SEIU as a health care reform advocate. “Working for two different labor unions, I saw first-hand how crucial unions and workers are to our country. We need to have representatives in government who will continue to fight to make sure the needs and rights of all workers and union members are protected”
In 2011, Tim opened The Independent Cafe as a small takeout coffee shop on the Village Green in Bar Harbor. “I was looking for something new where I could combine my love of people and my history of working on the issues that impact us all. I had no idea what I was in for.”
After starting the shop with very little money Tim struggled financially for several years, but never lost focus. “I felt this tremendous pressure, like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I felt like I was responsible for all the hopes and dreams of my parents and all the poor kids I’d grown up with. Every time we felt like things were getting better another crisis would emerge. Whenever I managed to pay off one bill, three more would suddenly show up. We succeeded because of my family, our community, and the fact that none of us would quit. Every challenge made us work harder. Every roadblock made us more determined and more creative. And eventually we became successful.”
The Independent is now one of the busiest cafes in Hancock County. Though it wasn’t always easy, Tim has always paid his employees a living wage. “When I opened The Independent Cafe, instead of paying people less, I paid them more than a minimum. I’m proud that we paid all our employees a livable wage right from the start. Believe me, there were lots of sleepless nights when I’d lay in bed worrying about making payroll, or whether that check I just wrote was going to clear, or if I could pay my rent. But at the end it was worth it. Because it is my sincere belief that business owners have a moral obligation to ensure that their employees can feed themselves and their families.” In addition, the cafe composts thousands of pounds of coffee grounds every year, supports local farms and farmers by sourcing its food locally, and regularly supports area non-profits like the Bar Harbor food pantry.
Tim Rich has faced struggles his whole life. Every time he’s been knocked down he has come back stronger and more committed to helping his friends, his community, and the people of Maine. “I haven’t talked much about it, but I’m one of those people who really has had a hard life in many ways. It’s been tough, but I’ve learned from every mistake I’ve made and I’m a better person because of them. I have an incredible appreciation for what real people go through in life. No one ever plans on losing themselves or their friends to an addiction, or losing their job, or struggling to pay their bills. These aren’t abstract things to me, I’ve lived their lives, this is very personal to me. That’s why I’m in this. I’m here to help the people who feel like they’ve been forgotten by politics as usual. The political elite in Washington and Augusta, powerful well-connected lobbyists, and huge corporations already have people fighting for them in D.C., I’m here to fight for the rest of us.