WATERVILLE — Maureen Kibler will tell you that the power of suggestion is a pretty good incentive in trying to convince someone to open a business.

At least it worked with her.

Kibler, 60, is planning to open a cafe in the Hathaway Creative Center in the next three to five weeks that will feature daily gourmet specials as well as standard-fare breakfasts and lunches.

The Button Down Cafe, named for a popular type of shirt once manufactured in the former Hathaway mill, eventually will offer take-home dinners.

Opening a cafe was not something she planned to do until friend Don Plourde tried her homemade cannoli.

Plourde, an agent marketing the building, suggested she open a cafe at Hathaway after trying them.

“I said, ‘What?’ she recalled. “It kind of took me a while to mull it over. That’s how it started. The more I talked about it, the more enchanted I became with this.”

Kibler, who is retired and lives in Belgrade, has owned businesses but never a restaurant. She grew up in a large Italian family though and has loved cooking for years.

“I know my way around a kitchen, I love food, I love cooking and I love watching people enjoy food,” Kibler said.

She got the idea for the cafe’s name from a woman who had folded shirts at the shirt factory. The woman told Kibler that the button-down shirt was popular, but putting the tiny buttons into the holes was tedious and with the buttoned collars, the shirts were hard to iron and fold, too.

“The employees worked there very long and very hard and they all lost their jobs,” Kibler said of Hathaway. “I wanted to honor those people who worked there so many years.”

The cafe will seat 28 people once Kibler and her husband, Glenn, 60, are finished renovating and furnishing the 2,000-square-foot, first-floor space once occupied by Maynard’s Chocolates.

Customer orders will be taken at a counter next to the kitchen and the restuarant’s open design will allow customers to watch their food prepared.

“They will see us making their food, serving their food, packaging their food,” Kibler said. “We want to get to know people and hear what they like and what they enjoy.”

She said breakfast will include everything from bagels to muffins and coffee, and daily specials will feature items such as soufflés, breakfast sandwiches and wraps. Lunches will include sandwiches, soups and salads, beef stew and macaroni and cheese.

Snacks, pastries and grab-and-go items will be available all day long.

The cafe, at 10 Water St., will be open 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m. to start, and may open on weekends later.

Hathaway Creative Center developer Paul Boghossian said Kibler thinks much of her business will come from inside the building, where nearly 500 people live or work.

“It’s going to be a very comfortable place for people to gather,” Boghossian said.

Boghossian said office space in the 230,000-square-foot building is about 80 percent occupied. About 30,000 square feet of space is available for retail businesses and offices on the first floor, and about the same amount of space is available for offices on the second floor.

Boghossian said he is talking with two potential office tenants and he hopes to lease space for a brew pub. A small martini or wine bar and specialty grocery store would fit perfectly into the building, he said.

Meanwhile, nearly all of the former CMP building in the Lockwood complex is occupied by Pro Moving Service, and Boghossian hopes to develop the former Marden’s building next to that building with a hotel and smaller apartments.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com