Owner Paige Zirtidis said she is permanently closing her Maine Made and More shops in Waterville and Belgrade and will have a liquidation sale starting June 1. She cites the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for going out of business. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Three successful businesses in the Waterville area have become casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, forced to close permanently because keeping them open is not a viable option.

Those businesses, Maine Made and More and Eric’s Restaurant & Catering, both in Waterville, and The China Dine-ah in China, closed in mid-March when the pandemic struck and will not reopen, their owners said Friday.

A longtime popular store, Maine Made and More on The Concourse in downtown Waterville will launch a big, two-week sale starting June 1 to liquidate its merchandise, according to owner Paige Zirtidis.

“We’re going to lose our summer for tourists and I can’t survive the summer without the tourists, so I’m going to let it go,” Zirtidis said Friday of the business, which has existed more than 40 years.

“We enjoyed it,” she said. “We have a lot of loyal customers, a lot of returning summer people that always came. We’re going to miss our customers, my staff. It’s been a great run. It’s been a fun place to work.”

Maine Made and More’s seasonal shop in Belgrade also will not open this summer, and the merchandise at that store will be moved to Waterville to be sold in June.

“It will be 50% off everything in the store, and I also have a lot of display units that we’ll have for sale, shelving units, hutches, display cases, all that type of thing,” Zirtidis said. “It will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. I’m planning on running it two weeks and if things really move along, we’ll go a third week.”

Maine mugs, souvenirs, Stonewall Kitchen products such as jams, Maine made jewelry, toys, stuffed animals, books and home decor are among items for sale.

“We will be taking safety precautions,” Zirtidis said of following state guidelines for retail businesses while the sale is going on.

The Waterville shop moved two years ago from The Center at 93 Main St. downtown to 50 Concourse West, sandwiched between The Villager, a family restaurant, and Yardgoods Center. After it closed in March because of the coronavirus, Zirtidis said that as time went on, it became clear that it could not survive the loss of business.

Maine Made was started by George and Paula Gordon who sold it to Zirtidis in 2007. Two people worked at the shop most recently, but it employed some 15 people at one time. Zirtidis closed her third location in Topsham a year ago, she said.

Kimberly Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council, said her organizations are helping struggling businesses connect to resources and directing them to places where they may try to secure grants and loans. The information may be found at midmainechamber.com.

“Our heart breaks for these businesses,” Lindlof said of those that have closed. “They are unable to adapt to the new guidelines. We valued their businesses in our community and will miss them so much.”

Eric’s Restaurant & Catering

Cyndie Cote and her brother, Eric Veilleux, have owned and operated Eric’s Restaurant & Catering at 105 College Ave. for 13 years and had to make a difficult decision to close after exploring all the options, according to Cote.

The business closed in mid-March, devastating Cote and Veilleux, who loved serving their loyal customers, some of whom patronized the eatery twice a day. They had hoped to reopen, but that is not to be.

Eric’s Restaurant on College Avenue in Waterville will not reopen for business, its owners said. Cyndie Cote and her brother, Eric Veilleux, have operated the business for 13 years, but found they could not weather the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“We love the community,” Cote said Friday. “We love our people. There are so many wonderful people in this little community. We’ve had so many calls.”

Eric’s hosted weddings, birthday parties and anniversary parties in the restaurant, and Cote said a young couple would get married there and when they had a child, they would host the child’s birthday party there — and then the couple’s anniversary party. They had 10 weddings scheduled for this year and had to give them up, which was hard for both the couples and staff.

Cote said that they encouraged employees to apply for unemployment benefits right after the restaurant closed in mid-March, and as time went on it became clear she and her brother had three choices: file for bankruptcy, which they did not want to do because they have a good reputation and always paid their bills on time; apply for a loan; or try to find a buyer for the restaurant and catering business, which has been very successful.

Cote said she is nearly 70 and she and her brother and families had heart-to-heart talks and made the heartbreaking decision to close.

“We couldn’t do it,” she said of keeping it open. “It just didn’t work out. I cried about it for a week, and so did my brother.”

The China Dine-ah

Like Cote, Lisa Wardwell, owner of The China Dine-ah at 281 Lakeview Drive in South China, also cried for a week after making the decision to close.

“I just get really emotional about it because I’ve owned it for six years,” Wardwell said Friday.

She said she grew up in the area and graduated from Erskine Academy. Her father attended Erskine and her children also graduated from the school, so being at the restaurant and seeing all the people made it feel like home. She bought the restaurant, which opened in 2007, six years ago.

Owner Lisa Wardwell is selling The China Dine-ah restaurant and has had some calls from interested parties. According to Wardwell, the China eatery is another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“I loved being there,” she said. “I loved working there. I loved growing the business — and this was a shot to my heart.”

Like Zirtidis, Wardwell said she relied heavily on tourists for her business.

“My Easter and my Mother’s Day are the two biggest moneymakers,” she said. “I couldn’t open for Easter and I couldn’t open for Mother’s Day and to have no tourists and have no fairs … We work all summer to pay our bills all winter and without the fairs …”

The annual Windsor, Union and Common Ground Fairs brought about 1,500 patrons daily to The China Dine-ah, according to Wardwell. Those fairs have announced they will not open this year because of the pandemic.

“All restaurants are on a razor-thin profit margin — they didn’t plan for this,” Wardwell said.

She said she plans to try to sell The China Dine-ah and has already had some people call her about it.

Meanwhile, she is focusing her energies right now on two Augusta businesses she owns, Lisa’s Restaurant & Lounge at 15 Bangor St. and White Flour Catering at 205 Church Hill Road.

“Any gift certificates from The China Dine-ah will be honored at Lisa’s,” Wardwell said. “I feel like that’s the least I could do because everyone’s so loyal and wonderful.”

Lisa’s will reopen at 6 a.m. May 22, she said.


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