The Knowles Company
It was the summer of 1898. The newspapers were filled with accounts of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders' charge up San Juan Hill, a new breakfast food called Corn Flakes had been introduced by William Kellogg, and summer residents of Northeast Harbor were enjoying the novelty of sending picture post cards, newly authorized by the United States Post Office. The summer of 1898 was an eventful one for Belle Smallidge, the town librarian. Early in the season, a young couple wandered into the library looking for a summer rental. Belle offered to assist them, and before she knew it, she was working full time finding rental properties for other visitors to Northeast Harbor. Thus was launched Mount Desert Island's oldest and most successful real estate and vacation rental firm.
While Belle soon married Jerome Henry Knowles, a young Northeast Harbor attorney, she continued to work and saw her real estate business flourish. It was quite unusual for a married woman in 1903 to also be a career woman and a business owner! She and Jerome had a son, Jerome Knowles, Jr., who in 1933 joined his mother in the firm. Nine years later Jerome, Jr.'s wife, Evelyn, came on board as a real estate broker. In 1949 the business incorporated as The Knowles Company and in 1950 expanded to include statewide appraisal services.
The family tradition continued when Jerome Jr. and Evelyn's daughter Kathryn began working summers in the real estate office doing photography for her father's appraisals. Kathryn's husband, Bob Suminsby, joined The Knowles Company in 1958 as a broker. In 1972, Bob and Kathy purchased The Knowles Company from Kathy's parents and subsequently opened a branch in Southwest Harbor. Within fifteen years, they had opened a third branch in Ellsworth, and their son, Jerome, had joined the business.
Active in real estate long into her life, Belle, at the age of 70, traveled to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, where she received a Member of Appraisal Institute degree. She was the first person in Maine and the third woman in the United States to receive such a distinction.
In 1994, Keating Pepper, Mia Thompson, and Harriet Whittington purchased The Knowles Company. It was the first time that the company had been sold to owners outside the Knowles family. And today, working as equal partners, Keating and Mia carry on the tradition of integrity and professionalism – the hallmarks of The Knowles Company's founding family.