WATERVILLE — Patrick Mulligan gets emotional when he talks about his regular customers at Portland Pie Co. who are now buying takeout food to help support the business.

“A man and his wife and daughter come every Friday night to eat and sure enough, I saw him coming in and getting food to go,” Mulligan said Saturday.

The owner of Portland Pie at 173 Main St. downtown, Mulligan is working day-to-day to keep the business open, maintain some workers, and provide food for customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each day is a learning curve and no one knows what tomorrow will bring. Every morning, Mulligan wakes up and calls other business owners to see what they are doing.

“I don’t know what the right answers are,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m still looking for answers.”

Like other restaurants and businesses, Mulligan has had to lay off most of his 30 employees and they are seeking unemployment benefits. Three managers, three or four part-time workers and delivery drivers continue to work at the restaurant.

“We’re trying to lay off the people who unemployment would benefit,” Mulligan said.

Earlier in the week, business was very slow, but it picked up Friday, with Colby College and a medical building purchasing large orders and other people calling for smaller ones, according to Mulligan.

“We had some big deliveries, which really made a difference,” he said.

The state is allowing businesses to sell alcohol as part of deliveries and pickup, so Portland Pie is selling four and six-packs of beer, as well as bottles of wine, which helps, Mulligan said. He said he will probably shrink the menu and not offer desserts other than cookies and brownies.

Other than having to wait a couple of days to receive a toilet paper order, supply chains have been good, he said.

Mulligan is close to opening another Portland Pie location on Route 302 in Windham. It is in a former Friendly’s restaurant that is being totally rehabbed.

“We literally have builders in there, full time, getting ready to open, which obviously is not going to happen when we thought it would,” he said.

Waterville Portland Pie bartender Taylor Fick, 23, said she has worked at the business about eight months and misses the interaction with customers, but she savors the short chats she can have with people coming in to buy takeout.

“Everyone is talking about what’s going on, and everyone has something to say about it,” Fick, of Norridgewock, said Saturday.

She said she sanitizes between customers, wiping down countertops and other surfaces, as well as writing utensils.

“People see that and they really appreciate it,” she said.

Like Mulligan, Fick says the future is uncertain.

“Basically all we can do is take it day by day and help each other out if anybody needs anything,” she said. “This community is out there more than people think, to help each other through this.”

Meanwhile, delivery driver Ally Corbett, 21, of Oakland, said the number of runs she makes now are down a lot from where they were before the pandemic situation.

The method of delivering food has changed also. Some customers ask her to leave the food on the doorstep and tell her the money and tip will be taped to the door.

“I’d say that’s the biggest change I’ve noticed,” Corbett said.

A Messalonskee High School graduate, Corbett started college at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and transferred to Colby but is taking this semester off to regroup. A junior, she is majoring in education.

She said Portland Pie customers are grateful to have food delivered, and workers are grateful for their business.

“I’ve grown to appreciate the food service more and more as I work,” she said. “I’m definitely more appreciative of the people who work behind the scenes in the restaurants.”


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