UNITY — A landmark red building on School Street will get a place in modern history as new owners put it on the market as an Airbnb rental.

Once known as the Homestead Restaurant, the building at 18 Plaza Drive soon will become the Homestead Air B&B, providing lodging in a town that now sends its guests to nearby cities with hotels and motels.

Owners Jeremy and Amy Edwards expect to start renting out rooms by mid-October. They hope the renovation will test the waters for other lodging projects in town while also giving the building, which has been vacant for more than a year, a purpose once again.

“Back in the heyday, this was one of the most popular places to go,” Jeremy said of the former restaurant. The building has since been home to a handful of other restaurants before it was converted into office space and then closed. “It’s a beautiful building. It’s here, and it’s not doing anything.”

The Edwardses bought the building last month for an undisclosed price. The old restaurant was like a town landmark, and Jeremy said they hope to keep it that way and honor its history with the new business. They even made sure the new siding was red, he said.

The space now includes three large suites for guests, each 550 to 650 square feet in size. Each suite comes with a living area and kitchen area to accommodate longer stays or guests who want to save money by cooking in their rooms.

The Airbnb is next door to the Unity Shop N’ Save, which the Edwardses also own.

“Our goal is not to get rich on this,” Jeremy said. The couple plans to rely on Airbnb, a website that lets people list their properties or homes for rental use to determine the best pricing and policies. Their goal is to offer an affordable, homey place to stay that will attract people to Unity again and again, or even persuade them to move to the small Waldo County town.

“It just takes people that have money and a vision, and they’re off,” he said. “We’re doing the best to do our part.”

There are currently nine rooms or homes in Unity listed on the site, mostly around Lake Winnecook, also known as Unity Pond.

Jeremy has talked with a number of local businesses, such as Northern Solstice Alpaca Farm and Unity Pond Pottery, who get visitors from other states and even other countries. Often, visitors are forced to rent a room at a hotel in Waterville or Bangor, as Unity does not have a hotel or motel. Unity College staff members also have talked about the need for housing at town economic development meetings.

The Edwardses plan on promoting local businesses and restaurants at their bed-and-breakfast, placing brochures and menus in the rooms for guests. They also plan to ask some businesses to keep flyers or brochures to advertise their lodging.

“We want to make sure we’re really pushing everything in town,” Jeremy Edwards said. “(…) It’s not just our grocery store. It’s all the other businesses in town it could help.”

Feedback has been mostly positive so far, he said. The lot was rezoned to a commercial and residential use without much difficulty, as it’s already in a business district, and most of the reactions on social media have been encouraging. However, some people did react negatively and don’t see the need for lodging in the area, he said.

“There are some local people who don’t see the growth in Unity and the potential in Unity,” he said, but added that he disagrees. “If we can’t bring more people to Unity, businesses aren’t going to grow.”

If the Homestead Air B&B is successful, Jeremy Edwards said, they’re open to expanding and adding more rooms. They have plans now to add deck spaces and build out the exterior of the building later on.

“You never know in the future,” Amy Edwards said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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