AUGUSTA — Mike and Kim Meservey heard the naysayers when they announced they were moving their restaurant downtown.

Why move a successful business out of the place where they built up a loyal following over 17 years to try their luck in a rehabbed, previously vacant downtown location?

If those naysayers want to find the Meserveys’ new place, it’ll be easy — just look for all the cars lining both sides of Water Street.

Or take a look at the people waiting outside to get into the Downtown Diner.

“A lot of people said, ‘You’re not going to make it down there,'” a smiling Kim Meservey said. “And, look.”

“The naysayers, we proved them wrong again,” Mike Meservey added.

Their previous restaurant, Bond Brook Pancake House, was hardly struggling. Located in a strip mall on Mount Vernon Avenue, it had a core group of regulars who kept it busy for breakfast and lunch.

Since the move, the Meserveys said they are far busier with the Downtown Diner than the old pancake house ever was. They’ve kept their regular crowd, but have also attracted newcomers with the new location and homemade food.

On a recent day, the din inside the bustling diner was almost palpable. The business has been so busy in the two weeks since it opened, the Meserveys said they are adding staff to serve the crowds.

The Augusta couple said the move downtown is one of the best things they’ve ever done.

“It has exceeded our expectations,” Mike Meservey said.

Their eight previous employees made the move downtown with them, and they’ve already had to add another worker in the kitchen and plan to add two servers on weekends.

Several former Bond Brook regulars were in for lunch earlier this week, including Clarence Roy Jr., of Augusta, who, before the move, had been going to the old Bond Brook restaurant since it opened some 17 years ago.

He said he eats at the diner once or twice a week.

“The food’s good,” he said of why he followed the Meserveys from the old restaurant to the new.

Chatting over a plate of meatloaf slathered in gravy with a scoop of mashed potatoes, Roy said he was initially concerned about parking at the downtown site. But he said he hasn’t had a problem finding a parking spot at the new location. The new diner has entrances on both sides, on Water Street and Commercial Street, with public parking by each.

The Meserveys said they’ve been surprised at the many comments they’ve received from people happy to see the life the diner has brought to downtown.

“People are so happy we’re doing it here in the downtown,” Kim Meservey said. “I never knew how many people love Augusta.”

The diner is in a renovated storefront at 204 Water St., part of the former Lamey Wellehan shoe store.

The building is owned by Toebee Parkhurst, who also owns, and lives in, another Water Street building across the street.

Parkhurst and others uncovered an old, stained-glass sign above the diner for Hersey’s Shoe Store, an early business at the site, which he said will remain above the diner.

“I knew that the Meserveys would be successful, but I had no idea that it would be like this,” Parkhurst said. “I couldn’t be happier for them, they’re great, hard-working people.

“I feel like downtown won the lottery. These folks know their business.”

The restaurant, which has a five-year lease at the site, has views of the Kennebec River and Old Fort Western out its front window.

Customer Theresa Dostie, of Augusta, said she was enjoying the good food, good people, and good view Tuesday.

“It’s a good place. I like it,” she said. “It’s good food and there is a nice view. You can sit and see all the people walking by.”

The Meserveys said they fell in love with the spot at first sight. The couple also said they want to be a part of the revitalization of the city’s downtown.

They spent weeks renovating the space.

“The atmosphere is better down here,” Mike Meservey said. “The natural light coming in, the air coming in, it’s a joy to work here. It’s only our second week, but it feels like it has always been there. It just fits.”

The restaurant is open as early as 5 a.m. for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, and breakfast Sunday. Breakfast is available all day.

Dostie said on more than one occasion she tried to go to the Meservey’s old location on Mount Vernon Avenue, only to find the place so packed she couldn’t get in. She thought the new place would alleviate that.

Tuesday, she got in to eat — but noticed the new place seems even busier than the last.

“I don’t know that they may yet need an even bigger place,” Dostie said.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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