GARDINER — Donuts, meat and now beer.

That may sound like the ideal three-course meal for some, but to downtown Gardiner, it’s the result of an incentive program launched more than a year ago to attract new businesses to the city.

The program, which provides forgivable loans and micro-grants to approved businesses opening in the downtown area, has led to two businesses opening up shop in the city — Frosty’s Donuts and Emery’s Meat & Produce — and a third, a Craft Beer Cellar franchise store, is expected to open late next month.

The program is largely funded by a $125,000 commitment from The Bank of Maine, which is merging with Camden National Bank.

Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, the downtown organization running the program, hopes it will continue, but he said he’s awaiting word from the banks on the program’s future. There is $39,400 remaining from the $125,000 pledge, but it’s unknown if that will remain available after the purchase of The Bank of Maine by Camden National Bank is finalized, which is expected in October.

Renee Smyth, senior vice president and head of marketing for The Bank of Maine, said Camden National will continue The Bank of Maine’s charitable foundation. She said the bank will review the incentive program to be sure it’s effective before deciding how much or whether to fund the program.


“We’re going to continue to evaluate it every six months,” she said.

The program, launched in the spring of 2014, began with the $125,000 pledge from The Bank of Maine more than three years ago to fund some type of comprehensive downtown development program. With the help of $50,000 from the Gardiner Board of Trade, the program was developed to attract a mix of established businesses to the downtown to bring more visitors to Gardiner and boost all downtown businesses. There is $21,760 remaining in board of trade funds.

So far, Wright said the program has been successful. Frosty’s Donuts, Emery’s Meat & Produce and the Craft Beer Cellar all fit in the desired mix of businesses the program had hoped to attract, he said.

“I feel we couldn’t have attracted a better mix of businesses than we have with this program,” Wright said.

Although Wright said he thinks the downtown could still use another restaurant, with Alex Parker’s Steakhouse closing near the end of last year and Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center hosting more shows downtown, the process to bring in a new businesses can be lengthy.

The businesses need to be ready and financially able to expand to a new location, and they need to fit in the targeted business types, Wright said. The businesses targeted by the program include seafood or ethnic cuisine restaurants or restaurants with space for entertainment; specialty clothing stores, home goods stores, sporting goods or marina stores; specialty food stores; professional or medical services; and higher education.


If Camden National Bank doesn’t continue funding the program, Wright said Gardiner Main Street would seek alternative funding sources, although it’s not known what would be available.

Gregory Dufour, president and CEO of Camden National Bank, said in July he couldn’t say whether the bank would continue funding the program in the future, but that the bank would keep finding ways to support Gardiner.

The latest business to be approved in the program, Craft Beer Cellar Gardiner, is receiving a $10,000 grant for inventory and a $35,000 loan that will be forgiven in five years if the business remains in Gardiner.

The owner of the business, John Callinan, bought the building at 339 Water St. in May for $115,000 with the plan of opening up the craft beer franchise location. He gutted the interior of the storefront, which most recently was home to Founding Farmers Community Market, and added a new a ceiling, floor and electric wiring. Callinan, who lives in Winthrop, estimated the renovations will cost $65,000 to $75,000.

Without the $45,000 in funding from the incentive program, he wouldn’t have been able to do the project, he said.

Callinan, who used to work in health care administration, said he had hoped to open for Swine & Stein Octoberfest on Oct. 10, an annual beer and musical event on Water Street, but it doesn’t appear to be possible. When the store does open, it will stock 500 different beers from around 200 breweries, Callinan said.


It’s the second Maine franchise location for the Craft Beer Cellar, which opened its first store in Belmont, Massachusetts, in 2010 and now has 19 stores open around the country, according to its website. Franchise owners opened a location in Portland last year.

For Gardiner Main Street, the craft beer store made sense even though the owner of the franchise hadn’t run a similar business previously, Wright said. The store represented a significant investment in a downtown building, and it’s in a growing industry, he said.

“It just seemed like the perfect fit for the type of business that will drive people to Gardiner,” Wright said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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