GARDINER — For nearly a dozen years, a framed newspaper clipping memorializing the transfer of Gerard’s Pizza from its longtime owner Claude Caron to Jeff McCormick, one of Caron’s managers, has hung on the wall there.

When the business is sold again next week, Caron once again will be in charge of the business his father and his uncle started in 1964.

“Jeff was with me almost 12 years,” Claude Caron said. As one of his managers, McCormick worked to let Caron do whatever he needed to do.

And when the time came to make a change, Caron offered it to McCormick, who took it on.

McCormick made the business his own, continuing to run it despite a bout of cancer and a catastrophic fire in 2015 that ultimately destroyed the building next to his and causing him to be closed for about a month.

In April 2016, McCormick was diagnosed with cancer a second time, and he died in April this year.

Caron said a member of McCormick’s family asked if he would be interested in taking on the restaurant again. After initially saying no, he changed his mind, and he and his wife, Stacy, have started to work in the space, getting ready for an opening that’s expected to occur in the second weekend in November.

“He never stops. Never,” Stacy Caron said. “He has two modes: just go or passed out.”

It has mostly been just go in the last few weeks.

The to-do list includes new walls, new booths, a new floor, new kitchen equipment, securing the necessary permits and lining up suppliers.

In addition to the established menu, the Carons plan to offer beer and wine for the first time and will bring back limited breakfast offerings and coffee for people who want to grab a bite on the way to work.

“It’s still going to have that same family feeling,” Stacy Caron said.

Family is a big thing to the Carons. Family members are pitching in to help with renovation and, once the restaurant is open again, will help out behind the counter.

Coming back to the business seemed like the right thing to do, Caron said.

For a year and a half after he left the restaurant, Caron worked building houses. Then he went to work at Lowe’s in Auburn, and he opened up the Lowe’s in Augusta.

After about five years out of the restaurant business, he started to miss it.

At the time he sold the restaurant, it was the right thing to do because he was ready for a change.

“I was devoted to my father for 12 years. I owned it for almost 24 years. I think it was such a length of time that I wanted something different,” he said.

The restaurant opened in 1964 as a partnership between brothers Gerard and Real Caron. Claude said after about two months, his uncle Gerard decided he didn’t want to be in a partnership anymore and struck out on his own. Caron’s father, Real, stayed in Gardiner, and Gerard opened his own pizza restaurant in Lewiston, which he also named Gerard’s.

When Claude Caron had a chance to buy the business again after McCormick’s death, he said no at first. At 58, he wasn’t sure he would get financing; but within a day, the answer was yes and things started falling into place.

“When I met him, he always talked about this business, how he owned it and how he missed it,” Stacy Caron said. “It didn’t surprise me that we’re doing this. Do I think it’s kind of crazy? A little bit. But I know that he knows the business and I know that the people are going to come back and support us and support him, so I am 100 percent game for it.”

Claude Caron said Gerard’s never really left the family, because McCormick, who worked for him for decades, was like family. McCormick took on his legacy to keep Gerard’s going, and now he’s taking the restaurant to let that legacy run forever.

“It’ll be 50 years before anyone has to think about this again,” he said.

Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett, whose family has been going to Gerard’s Pizza since his children were young, said it’s serendipity that the restaurant, long a part of the city’s history, is going to be in the hands of the family that started it.

“It’s been sad to walk by and see it closed,” Harnett said. “This will revive Jeff’s memory.”

The one thing that won’t change for Gerard’s Pizza is the clipping on the office wall.

“It’s a full circle kind of moment,” Stacy Caron said.

It’s not going anywhere, Claude Caron said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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