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 …

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