New Businesses open on the Quietside despite the pandemic …

SOUTHWEST HARBOR – Is there anything more exciting than a new restaurant opening in town?

I picked up this nugget of news while walking my beat on the Quietside just as I did as a 25-year-old reporter in Middletown, Conn. I started as I always do with a cup of tea at the Common Good Soup Kitchen. This being Thursday, I listened to Ruth Grierson perform her magic on the fiddle. (Sunday Aug. 30 is CGSK’s last day of the season). The talk with the local folks turned to what’s happening in town. I lamented that several storefronts on Main Street remained shuttered.

Oh, but 334 Main Street won’t be closed for long as a new restaurant is slated to open there, I was told.

“Who are the owners?” I asked.

“Just go around the back of the building and see for yourself,” was the answer.

That’s what I did.

Behind the windows plastered with newspapers in the building at 334 Main Street were two owner-chefs moonlighting as carpenters to open a new restaurant which will feature food centered around brick oven cooking.

Already blessed with many fine eateries – Rogue, Red Sky, Coda – and stalwarts Sips, Dry Dock Cafe, Eat-A-Pita, and the best lobster pounds on the island, Beal’s, Thurston’s, Charlotte’s and Upper Deck, the addition of “Hearth and Harbor” will validate the Quietside as the foodie destination on MDI. And this in a year when the Claremont Hotel wasn’t even open.

The new restaurant will offer cuisine aspiring to that of the Sweet Pea’s Cafe on Rt. 3 in Bar Harbor.

If the pandemic restrictions are still in place, Hearth and Harbor will be able to take full advantage of a large outdoor space out back slotted between the library and Eat-A-Pita.

The owners are aiming for an opening in October and hoping to be a year-round operation. That will give SWH multiple year-round restaurants to rival those in Bar Harbor. Sips co-owner Scott Worcester said the restaurant will forego its usual November holiday and stay open because of the business lost in April and May. Rogue Cafe usually opens on weekends during the winter, and Red Sky has had an intermittent winter schedule as well.

By next summer, SWH will have a different look. The Quietside Cafe will relocate a half mile north to the Seal Cove mall, and a new store is slated to open in its place.

At 10 Clark Point Road, sandwiched between Sips and Red Sky, a new storefront displays a kaleidoscopic array of antique artifacts, art, furniture and clothing. Called “The Store” the space is being occupied by renowned local builder Richard Bradford and his step brother Michael Leslie of New York City to serve a variety of purposes including marketing their home design and building businesses.


Bradford and Leslie have traveled extensively and have accumulated an eclectic collection of stuff – from typewriters to model boats. Everything in the store is for sale, including a line of handmade clothes by fashion designer Maya Bracken, who calls her line Vivian Badlook.


It is a gallery, furniture store, clothing rack, design center, antiquity shop and office all wrapped up in one. Mostly, it is a place with an inviting tactile feel – like your grandfather’s den. The only sentient thing missing is the smell of pipe tobacco. In the end that’s what the store really sells – a distinctive sensibility, nostalgia, peace and contemplativeness. Go buy a bottle of Sancerre from Scott Worcester at the Sawyer’s wine and cheese shop and plop down on the couch at 10 Clark Point Road. Walk around with your glass of wine and immerse yourself in its safe and temporal affect. See something you like? They will be happy to sell you one or make you one.

Sawyer’s still shuttered ..


You’ll lose that karma fast once you walk up to Main Street and see the continuing lack of activity inside Sawyer’s Market. In April I wrote about the bustle inside as the new management was bringing life back to the landmark store. But that team has since abandoned the project, and owner David Milliken of Cranberry Isle – he of the Milliken textile fortune – is keeping everyone in the village guessing as to its future. I left a message at his art mats business but did not hear back.

The first half of the project was completed earlier this year when the the wine section was eliminated and the store cut down in size. That space was taken over by Little Notch bakery next door.

Merlin Dilley then resigned as manager of the market. He had been assistant manager before the store was closed in February after a furnace puffback filled the market with soot. Much of the inventory had to be thrown out. Owner Brian Worcester put the store on the market soon after.

Retaining the building at 344 Main Street as a market would be welcoming news for area businesses as Sawyer’s was a major draw on the Quietside. It was a must-go destination for me until about 10 years ago when the butcher sold me a big rack of spoiled lamb. Also, the market started to become extremely expensive serving the needs of the summer people. I now do all my grocery shopping at the IGA.

‘Rusticator’ is Laura Keeler Pierce’s ‘shop child’ for her interior design business

SEAL HARBOR – Using a brick and mortar shop to promote a design business seems to be a “thing” on MDI. Well, how do you explain two of them opening within weeks of each other, although they are quite different in purpose?

Here is a QandA with Laura Keeler Pierce, owner of Rusticator at 10 Main Street, Seal Harbor, just doors down from the Lighthouse Inn.

How did you decide to locate your store on MDI?It might be easiest to refer to my blog post here. It was important to me that we open our store in a community that we have a long term commitment to. To me, owning a brick and mortar shop means that you are invested in the location and being a resource for the residents of that place. Not only can we design your home, offer well-crafted furnishings and unique accessories, we are the place you can pop into to find a gift for a milestone occasion or a few cocktail napkins for an impromptu hostess gift. 
What are the various ancillary businesses which will benefit from a physical location? I lovingly refer to Rusticator as the “shop child” of my interior design business, Keeler & Co. Based in Boston, now with an office in Seal Harbor, Keeler & Co. has projects throughout the country. Now we have the chance to bring the wonderful items that our clients have had access to, to the MDI community and its visitors.
Tell us something about your own background?Color has always defined me. At Pomfret School, I started painting seriously, which led to pursuing a BA in Art and Art History at Colby College. When I graduated I thought I wanted to work in the art world but I soon realized that while I loved art, the creative process was even more of a driving force for me. So I found myself in the event industry creating wonderful temporary spaces for corporate, non-profit and social clients before embarking on this interior design journey. Now I am wonderfully lucky to create permanent spaces for clients all along the East Coast. 
When did you develop a love for design?Growing up, I moved around frequently with my family. Each home meant a new connection with spatial relationships, textiles and color. After working in art and events, I realized I was missing the permanence that comes with the home, the place that one retreats to every day. While I loved designing these wonderful spaces for people to gather and celebrate together, it was always bittersweet to see them removed the next day. Interior Design combines my love of space and place and color with our commitment to sustainable, timeless and long-lasting spaces.
What do you most love about the island and its residents? What are your favorite things about MDI?Oh gosh, so much! Mount Desert Island is such a special place. How many places allow you to go from the tennis court to the top of a mountain to a sailboat all in one day? Historically, a five-activity day was the goal, though this year with the shop, it’s been more like two, and even that is momentous! But what makes this place so remarkable is how a shared sense of place also holds such an open and welcoming community of people. Everyone has their little corners of the place, their own experiences, yet we all have this appreciation for the island, the park and its waters. I’ve truly felt this opening Rusticator this year, obviously this hasn’t exactly transpired as expected, however so many have come in to support us or made a point to purchase through us. Our neighbors have enthusiastically welcomed us. 

Story behind all those posters urging women to speak out …

SOUTHWEST HARBOR – For much of the hiatus between the closing of the gallery at 10 Clark Point Road and the opening of the new storefront by Richard Bradford and his brother, the windows were adorned by posters like the one above. The same posters are now appearing at various other businesses on the Quietside.

They are the products of the “Finding Our Voices” project funded by Patrisha McLean to urge women to come forward with personal domestic violence stories. She was married to the singer Don McLean. They were divorced in 2016 after a domestic violence incident.

Here is Wikipedia’s account:

“The end of the marriage saw McLean arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence stemming from an incident that occurred at his home in Camden, Maine. No other details from the incident were reported. Originally charged with six misdemeanors, McLean pleaded guilty to four as part of a plea agreement. One of the four charges, domestic violence assault, was dismissed. For the remaining three McLean paid around $3,000 in fines and was not sentenced to any jail time.”

They both still live in Camden. Here is her website …

MDI’s major employers weather the pandemic with payroll assistance

SOMESVILLE, July 2020 – MDI Hospital has a special place in my heart. Its emergency room should award me frequent flyer miles. That’s where my son got patched up twice – once when I tripped him onto a rock on Long Pond and the ensuing cut on his mouth required multiple stitches. Another time he fell off the idle docks goofing off with his cousins at Seafood Ketch in Bass Harbor. Another trip to MDIH. More stitches. Over 35 years there were ear infections, cuts and bruises of all flavors, fishing hook excisions and various sprained parts of the human corpus.

I recently signed up as a regular patient at its Community Center in Southwest Harbor. So I have a big stake in MDI Hospital.

Back in March the hospital was very much on my mind, as I hyperventilated on my own dark foreboding of an unknown future. How could a hospital with only three ICU beds support the onslaught of the pandemic? I began to plot personal strategies. At the sound of the first cough what should I do?

I’ve learned a lot since them. There have been fewer than five cases on the island, and none from any resident of Bar Harbor. There never was an assault on our hospital. MDI affiliate Birch Bay Village was a model of how a congregate facility dealt with Covid-19, as only one employee came down with the the virus.

But fear of the pandemic spawned an even bigger crisis for hospitals.

U.S. hospitals were losing more than $1 billion in daily revenue in the April/May period as they experienced significant declines in patient volume during the pandemic, according to Crowe, a public accounting, consulting and technology company. 

The decline was across most major specialties as inpatient and outpatient volumes declined. You may view updated data from Strata Decision Technology here.

In its original report, using data from the National Patient and Procedure Volume Tracker, Strata found that the number of patients who sought hospital care decreased by 54.5 percent in March and April as a result the cancellation of elective procedures and other concerns during the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, net revenue at hospitals with more than 100 beds dropped roughly $1.44 billion per day, according to the report. 

The report, released May 1, said inpatient admissions were down more than 30 percent, emergency room visits dropped 40 percent and outpatient surgery volume plummeted 71 percent, compared to January. 

“Hospitals and governments prepared for a surge in patient volume to treat those infected with the novel coronavirus,” Brian Sanderson, managing principal of healthcare services at Crowe, said. “However, any possible surges that might have been expected due to COVID-19 patient volume appear to be dramatically offset by a significant decline in volume in all other areas.”

No doubt MDI faced the same financial abyss as its routine operations essentially came to a halt. It’s easy to focus on tourism as the economic elephant in the room on MDI because the restaurants, hotels, ships, shops and Acadia National Park are so visible. And it’s easy to forget that the hospital, along with Jackson Labs, may be the bigger economic engine. MDI Hospital employs 600 highly trained, professional staff. Those are not the people we want to lose.

I learned this week that MDI Hospital received one of the largest federal loans – $5 to $10 million – in the Payroll Protection Program in Maine. As I did my research, it all made sense. I don’t have the details but hope to learn more next week when I get a chance to interview Chrissi Maguire, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the hospital.

The Trump administration gave in to pressure on Monday when it released the names of all those who received loans of $150,000 or more. Of course the largest group are those who received less than that. Those names have not been disclosed.

Quietside Journal culled through the 661,219 national recipients of PPP “loans” exceeding $150,000 and identified 18 on the island. They were essentially grants because of achievable “loan forgiveness” requirements. The list was developed by a zip code search for MDI-based organizations, so it may not be comprehensive. Some like Witham Family Hotels, owner of Bar Harbor Inn and other hotels on MDI, are based off island (Ellsworth) and did not initially appear with my zip code search. You may conduct your own search by name or zip code here:

Beyond the hospital is a hodgepodge of businesses on MDI which received PPP funding of more than $150,000 – some easily recognizable and a few somewhat obscure to me.

Among those receiving $1 million or more were big employers such as College of the Atlantic and Downeast Horizons, the non-profit that provides programs for persons with disabilities.

Both big hotel operators in Bar Harbor received loans. The owner of the Bar Harbor Holiday Inn received $1 million to retain 12 workers, which seemed like a typo. I tried numerous time to contact Eben Salvatore, who runs the hotel among other hotels owned by Ocean Properties, but to no avail. The Holiday Inn is owned by Eden Street Trust, which is affiliated with Ocean Properties although it’s not clear what the ownership arrangement is. A clause in the PPP added by Maine Senator Susan Collins allowed any hotel chain that has more than one physical location but employs fewer than 500 per location to qualify for loans. The other big hotel operator on MDI, Witham, received a more modest $350,000 to $1 million loan, although it did not state in the papers filed how many jobs would be retained.

Two heavy equipment construction companies, Goodwin and Gott, received loans. You cannot drive down any street on MDI in the spring, fall or winter without seeing their trucks, tractors, forklifts. Doug Gott & Sons received substantially more – $350,000 to $1 million – but declined to disclose in papers filed how many jobs it would retain with the money. Goodwin, which received between $150,000 and $350,000, said it would retain 23 jobs.

Here is the list of those with loans exceeding $150,000 on MDI:

A.C. PARSONS GARDEN CENTER, BERNARD, $150,000-350,000. Jobs retained 39

DOUG GOTT & SONS, SOUTHWEST HARBOR,$350,000-1 million. Jobs retained N/A

J&S WORCESTER (Sips, Sawyers Speciality), SOUTHWEST HARBOR, $150,000-350,000. Jobs retained 22

ISLESFORD DOCK RESTAURANT AND GALLERY LLC $150,000-350,000. Jobs retained 43

JOHN W GOODWIN, INC., SOUTHWEST HARBOR, $150,000-350,000. Jobs retained 23

NORTHEAST PLUMBING AND HEATING, INC., $150,000-350,000.Jobs retained 15

CAMP BEECH CLIFF MDI, LLC, $150,000-350,000. Jobs retained 20

FISHMAINE, INC. (Fish House Grill, Jalapenos), $150,000-350,000. Jobs retained 131

DOWNEAST HORIZONS INC, $1-2 million. Jobs retained 162

ASTI-KIM CORPORATION (Asticou Inn), $150,000-350,000. Jobs retained 6

ISLAND ENERGY, Northeast Harbor, $150,000-350,000. Jobs retained 16

SALISBURY COVE ASSOCIATES INC. (Atlantic Brewing Co.), $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 42

MER INC., Bar Harbor, $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 46

MT. DESERT ISLAND YMCA, $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 38

GEDDY’S PUB – BAR HARBOR, $150,000-350,000.Jobs Retained 99

RUPUNUNI, $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 15

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND HOSPITAL, $5-10 million. Jobs Retained 420

BIRCH BAY RETIREMENT VILLAGE, $350,000-1 million. Jobs Retained 58

VIRTUAL CORPORATION INC., Bar Harbor, $350,000-1 million. Jobs Retained 31

CADILLAC MOUNTAIN SPORTS, $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 21

DAVID B PAINE INC. (Jordan’s restaurant), $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 21

NORWOOD, DELAITTRE & SONS, INC. (masonry),$150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 17

COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC, $1-2 million. Jobs Retained 320.

EDEN STREET TRUST (Holiday Inn), $1-2 million. Jobs Retained 12

SIDE STREET CAFE, INC, $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 20

THE ACADIA CORPORATION (retail stores), $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 13

THE WEST STREET CAFE, INC., $150,000-350,000. Jobs Retained 29

The following 19 organizations in Maine each received a forgivable loan of between $5 million and $10 million:

• Alcom LLC
• Berry Dunn McNeil & Parker Inc.
• Continuum Health Services Inc.
• Darling’s
• Somic America Inc.
• Spectrum Health Care Partners P.A.
• Baker Newman & Noyes P.A. LLC
• Crooker Construction Inc.
• Woodland Pulp LLC
• Androscoggin Home Health Care Services Inc.
• Husson University
• Mount Desert Island Hospital
• New England Life Care Inc.
• Penobscot Community Health Center
• Intermed P.A.
• Diversified Holdings Co.
• Lee Holding Co.
• Saturn Associates Inc.
• V.I.P. Inc.

How well did Maine do in the national scrum? I think middling to poor.

Maine only had 2,840 recipients of $150,000 loans or more which seemed we got the short end of the stick. A larger number, 24,358, received loans under $150,000. There was a hurried and arbitrary application process. I know of well-deserving businesses which were denied and others flush with cash flow which received the loan.

One would have thought that Donald Trump would have wanted to give Susan Collins something to brag about. But that’s another story.

Behind the removal of C. C. Little’s name at JAX center and UMaine building ..

The founder of Jackson Labs Clarence Cook Little. His views on eugenics and work defending the tobacco industry were well documented.

SOMESVILLE – As early as 2016, there were debates at the University of Michigan about the eponymous science building named after Clarence C. Little, who was university president from 1925 to 1929. In 2017 Michigan launched a full review of the history of Little’s belief in eugenics and his work for the tobacco industry. In 2018 the university removed his name.

So Little’s past was hidden in plain sight. But it wasn’t until the recent Black Lives Matter movement reached its recent apex did Maine’s Orono campus and Jackson Labs respond by removing his name from a building and auditorium. I’m sure it was a fraught decision for JAX to remove the name of the lab’s founder from the C.C. Little Center. Little’s tireless efforts to rebuild the lab after it was destroyed in the Bar Harbor fires of 1947 was legendary.

But Little didn’t have a huge impact on the University of Maine where he spent three years as president before going to Michigan. Much of the time he was building the precursor to Jackson Labs on Bar Harbor. UMaine decided to take Little’s name off of a building on June 29.

Why did it take so long? I put the question to the school and got this response from the PR head with this statement from UMaine president Joan Ferrini-Mundy:

“I agree with the task force that the renaming of Little Hall  is necessary.  It provides an opportunity to promote reflection and conversations about the meaning of diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus, and to address specific issues of racism … Ours is a diverse and welcoming university community, brought together by our differences and our most highly held values — among them civility, inclusion, compassion, understanding, personal responsibility and respect.”

Ferrini-Mundy felt a need to task a committee in March to investigate whether to remove the name, three years after Michigan had already done so.