Chef and owner Roger Bintliff gestures Thursday to indicate how high flood waters were last month in the bakery and prep kitchen at Bintliff’s Corner Brew in Gardiner. The furnace beside him and workspace have since been cleaned and painted. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — For the last three weeks, Roger Bintliff has been hauling equipment and supplies out of the basement of his Water Street building, salvaging what he can and dumping the rest.

“I didn’t know about the capability of that river flooding like this,” Bintliff said. “Apparently it’s happened a lot, but no one’s talked about it. Lesson learned.”

Bintliff, the owner of Bintliff’s Corner Brew and the building that houses it, is just one of the business and property owners whose life was upended by the historic flooding of the Kennebec River following a powerful storm that moved into the region Dec. 18.

His property is part of the Dingley Block, a block of buildings that dates back to the mid-to-late-1800s and has housed a variety of businesses in the decades that it has stood. Just a few hundred yards from the Kennebec River, the block falls squarely within a flood zone.

Since it was built, the river has flooded at different times, notably in 1936 and again in 1987, which was the largest flood in the state’s history to date.

While some in Gardiner and other riverfront cities have been able to dry out and reopen, Bintliff has not, and he can’t say when he will.


“It’s been really difficult,” said Tamara Whitmore, executive director of Gardiner Main Street.

Gardiner Main Street, a nonprofit whose mission is supporting the economic and cultural vitality of Gardiner’s historic downtown neighborhood, has been struggling alongside its members to recover in the wake of the flood.

“When this first happened in May, I was like: holy crap, I have no idea what to do,” Whitmore said.

On May 1, the Kennebec River flooded after an intense rainstorm dropped more than 5 inches across the region. While the river and Cobbosseecontee Stream rose and flooded the Arcade parking lot behind Water Street, some basements and the parking lot of Hannaford Supermarket, the impact was nowhere near as severe as that of the Dec. 18 storm.

This time around, Whitmore said, she had a little more of an inkling, and she has learned even more since December.

Orlando Palacios sorts through items that were moved out of storage areas, the prep kitchen and bakery Thursday at Bintliff’s Corner Brew in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We can’t just rely on county, state or federal sources,” she said. “You have to think about your community hyper-locally and say, ‘What resources can we provide?'”


In the wake of the storm, Gardiner Main Street leveraged its social media presence to rally volunteers to help clean, to highlight which stores were reopening despite having no power and to update the statuses and open hours for shops and restaurants in the last critical retail days before Christmas.

Orlando Palacios sorts through items that were moved out of storage areas, the prep kitchen and bakery Thursday at Bintliff’s Corner Brew in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Bintliff’s neighbor in the Dingley Block is Alan Claude, who operates Alan Claude Gallery, which reopened not long after the flood.

Claude bought his building at the same time Bintliff bought his, but decided to make his basement level into parking for the building’s occupants, so in the event of a flood, the cars could be moved to safety.

While that did happen, Claude said, he and his tenants had stored personal and business items in the garages. When the flood came, they were able to save a lot of inventory and other things, but not all.

“It went so quick,” Claude said Thursday. “From 7:30 onwards, it got like a foot, then it was over your boots. I can’t swim in that stuff. You would have to have big boots and a hand truck ready to go, but we didn’t have that.”

While Claude’s and Bintliff’s businesses are fairly new, others, like the Hannaford supermarket, have been there for longer and have weathered floods.


In December, water poured into Hannaford’s Gardiner store, built on the site of a former mill pond, prompting its temporary closure due to the worst flooding damage it has experienced since 1987.

Caitlin Cortelyou, external communications manager for Hannaford, said the company is working to reopen the story as quickly as possible following “considerable” water damage, but can’t yet say when that will be.

A woman looks out at the flooding of Gardiner’s Maine Avenue in the aftermath of the Dec. 18 storm. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel file

“Due to the complexity of the project, we are currently assessing the timeline for reopening and will provide updates as available,” Cortelyou said via email.

In the meantime, she said store employees were paid for their scheduled hours while the condition of the store was assessed, and they have since been offered the opportunity to work in neighboring stores at their regular pay and hours until the Gardiner store reopens.

And while Hannaford has urged its customers to visit its other stores, many are choosing to shop elsewhere.

Across the Kennebec River in Randolph, Jack Goggins, owner of Goggins IGA, said sales are up in the wake of the flood.


“We’re trying to stay ahead of it; it’s a lot of work,” he said. “Our employees are doing an excellent job trying to stay ahead of it.”

His store, which is equipped with a generator, sits above minor flooding levels and never lost power during the Dec. 18 storm but did lose it for three hours during a storm the week before.

“I’ll take what I can get, but eventually, it will go back to normal,” he said.

Cleanup and restoration continues Thursday at the Hannaford store in Gardiner. A spokesperson for the supermarket chain says the company is not yet sure when the grocery store will reopen. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Melissa Lindley, economic development director for the city of Gardiner, said businesses have been looking for funds to help them recover.

They’ve been filling out FEMA paperwork to document their losses, Lindley said, but that data will be used to determine the state’s eligibility for a disaster declaration, not compensate them for their losses.

If a federal disaster declaration is made, that will open up some funding opportunities in the form of loans; they won’t be grants.


Earlier this week, a bill proposed by Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, to provide financial relief for businesses affected by the December storm won early support from state lawmakers. The Legislative Council, a bipartisan committee of legislative leadership and presiding officers endorsed the proposal to be considered during this year’s legislative session. The bill has not yet been drafted, so it’s not clear yet what form that relief would take.

Chef and owner Roger Bintliff walks by stainless steel shelves and kitchen equipment in a storage area Thursday that has been salvaged, cleaned and sanitized at Bintliff’s Corner Brew in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association and the Retail Association of Maine have launched the Maine Business Relief Fund to provide recovery assistance and is accepting applications through Jan. 31. The fund would provide up to $2,500 in grant allocations, with the possibility to reapply for up to $10,000 as funds become available.

This culvert underneath railroad tracks in Gardiner let water flow into the parking lot behind Bintliff’s Corner Brew and other businesses during last month’s flood. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

For Bintliff, who estimated his loss at more than $150,000, that’s a fairly small amount. And while he had a range of insurance policies to protect him against a variety of hazards, he said he’s learned they won’t pay out for flood damage to his bakery. It is located in the basement of his building and was entirely under water.

While he continues to clean, his seven employees are out of work and collecting unemployment insurance, waiting to hear whether they will be able to return to work.

Standing in the basement of his building, he pointed out the new water heater that will need to be replaced, the furnace that’s out of commission and the refrigeration units that now stand empty .

“It’s a process. It’ll all get cleaned up. Whether I’ll be able to run it or not, I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t really processed. (It’s) the price of admission to run a business along this river.”

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