WATERVILLE — Two businesses in downtown Waterville — Lebanese Cuisine and Paragon Shop — have closed permanently after having been in business for 44 years.

Lebanese Cuisine, known to many as “the Lebanese bakery,” closed after the death Jan. 2 of Laya Joseph, whose family owned and operated the business at 34 Temple St.

State Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, frequented the restaurant and said he and his family were sad to learn of Joseph’s death and the business’s closing, but are thankful for the many years she and her daughter provided Lebanese cuisine to the community. The grandchild of Lebanese immigrants, White said the restaurant was a treasured spot for his family.

“In fact, whenever our son visits from out of state, Lebanese Cuisine was always on the top of the list to experience,” he said. “My siblings and my 92-year-old Lebanese mother also often enjoyed the delicious food they provided.”

Lebanese Cuisine, known to many as “the Lebanese bakery,” is closing after 44 years at 34 Temple St. in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

A sign on the door of the business thanks loyal customers of 44 years and says the family made the very difficult decision to close after Joseph’s death.

Owner Salim Nasr, who is Laya Joseph’s brother, did not return a telephone call Sunday seeking comment, but Joseph’s obituary says she was born in Lebanon and moved with her husband, Wadeah Joseph, to the United States and settled in Waterville. Shortly after their daughter, Nada Joseph, was born, Wadeah Joseph died. Laya and Nada Joseph then moved back to Lebanon. When the war broke out, they returned to the United States.


A longtime member of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church in Waterville, Laya Joseph volunteered many hours cooking for church events, according to her obituary.

“Most importantly,” the obituary reads, “Laya was known in the community as being the bright light and backbone of the Lebanese Cuisine for 44 years.”

City Manager Bryan Kaenrath plans to recognize Laya Joseph and Lebanese Cuisine in his report Tuesday night to the City Council. The agenda quotes Kaenrath, saying: “This has been an iconic downtown business with a loyal following for many, many years and we will miss Laya’s cooking and consistent presence in our downtown. Her contributions to the Lebanese community and the City of Waterville are significant and worthy of recognition.”

The Paragon Shop at 36 Main St., at the corner of Silver Street, closed last Tuesday. Holly Towle, who owned it for the past three years, said she plans to move similar items sold at the shop, such as Maine-made souvenirs and apparel, into the retail area of Hawk’s Nest Lodge, a business she and her husband, Ben, bought recently in West Forks.

The couple also own Maine Lakeside Resort & Events in Caratunk, whose primary niche is accommodations, weddings and other events, according to Towle. Her husband also runs a heavy equipment company, Maine Trails and Excavation, and oversees, on a volunteer basis, Forks Area Trail Club, a snowmobile club, and Lake Moxie ATV Club.

“With the addition of another new business for us and downtown challenges and costs rising, it made the most sense for us to close the shop in Waterville and combine the best parts of it with our growing resort(s),” Towle wrote in an email.


The site of the now-closed Paragon Shop at 36 Main St. in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

She said she has lived in an around Waterville since 1982 and was happy to buy the Paragon Shop from Nancy and Roger St. Amand in 2020.

The St. Amands began the business 44 years ago at 113 Main St., but it soon outgrew the space. Two years later, they moved the shop to 36 Main St.

“I’ve enjoyed my customers here in this area and will miss having the little shop on the corner,” Towle said. “I’m looking forward to encouraging customers new and old to check out the new part of this beautiful state and come visit us at Maine Lakeside Resort or the Hawk’s Nest.”

Don Plourde, owner of Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate, said he will be looking for a new tenant for the storefront at 36 Main St., which is 1,200 to 1,400 square feet and has a storage area in the basement.

“I’d really like to keep it retail because I think it’s important to keep retail on Main Street,” Plourde, who owns the building, said.

He said the location is ideal because it is visible downtown and across the street from the Silver Street Tavern and the Lockwood Hotel, and within walking distance of other retail businesses. He said he will miss Towle and the shop.

“We hate to see her leave,” Plourde said. “She was a great tenant and it’s leaving a big hole there.”

The vacancies come at a time when the city is pushing to fill first-floor spaces downtown with businesses and vacant upper stories with housing, retail and other business as part of ongoing revitalization efforts.

The city, Colby College, the Alfond Foundation, Alfond family members and private sources have invested millions in downtown Waterville area over the past few years.

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