Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 13, 2017
Businesses breathe life into Deer Isle village
44 North Coffee owners Megan Dewey Wood, left, and Melissa Raftery start the painting project in their new space.
by Monique Labbe
With summer approaching, the Deer Isle village is starting to get a new look as several businesses plan to take residence in vacant buildings.
44 North Coffee owners Melissa Raftery and Megan Dewey Wood, whose roastery and café currently resides upstairs in the historic Deer Isle schoolhouse, recently purchased a building in the village for their business. The entire operation will move to 7 Main Street by summer, according to Raftery and Wood. The building will function as a roastery while providing a small seating space for four to six people. The space will also serve as retail to sell 44 North Coffee roasts, mugs, T-shirts, etc.
“It’s very exciting to be able to move our space downtown,” said Wood, who grew up on the island. “I remember this area being vibrant and a place for people to see each other and socialize.”
“It just makes sense for Main Street to not be a ghost town,” added Raftery, an Ohio native who found her way to Maine several years ago.
The pair have started the painting process and are hopeful to have the operation up and running by May.
Next to the new 44 North Coffee space, at 11 Main Street, is a building that has most recently housed the Deer Isle Night Market. That use is soon to change, though, as Jonathan Doolan, who also owns the building occupied by the Deer Isle Artists Association on Main Street, has purchased it with plans to turn half of the space into a sandwich shop.
“I really want to build on local clientele,” said Doolan. “So much of this area is seasonal during the summer months, but I want this place, as well as the entire village, ideally, to be able to focus on our local people during those other nine months.”
Doolan is in the beginning stages of clearing out the new space and renovating it to bring it up to code.
“It’s going to take a lot of work because I’m doing most of it by myself,” said Doolan, who also works full time at Haystack Mountain School of Craft. “I’m hoping to have something going out of here by July.”
Doolan’s brother, Devta, has also been renovating a building in the Deer Isle village, which he will use to open a jewelry store to sell his homemade jewelry in the next few months.
With all of the new businesses coming to the village in the next few months, Hub White, who runs the Deer Isle Artists Association Art Matters series, said that he feels like things could start turning around in the downtown area.
“There have been a lot of empty buildings here for a long time,” said White. “It’s nice to see some life coming back.”
While art is not displayed at the studio during the winter, the Art Matters series has become a gathering for local artists to work and display their art during a reception. Hub said that those receptions have become popular over the last few months.
“We’ve had as many as 60 people attending, and I think 45 was the least we’ve had. It’s been very well received,” he said.
White added that it is important to have things going on in the village on a year-round basis, something he thinks could happen as buildings fill up with businesses.
“Winters are long here, and people are looking for things to do, places to go with their friends and family. I think if we can make this work we’ll start to see some changes to what downtown Deer Isle looks like,” he said.
For Doolan, the excitement of something new for the local population is what is driving his new endeavor.
“I’m excited about the prospects of what downtown Deer Isle could turn into,” he said. “It feels hopeful.”