The Maine chapter of the AFL-CIO has taken a look at the history of restaurant union organization in Maine.
As early as the 1890s, Maine restaurant and hotel workers began organizing and forming worker organization known as “labor and benefit” orders, according to labor historian Charlie Scontras. In 1919, members of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees’ International Alliance and Bartenders’ International League of America (HERE) established locals in Augusta and Portland. Then in 1928, the Portland local brought HERE’s international president, Edward Flore, and an organizer to the city where they reportedly “met with good success, adding several new houses to the fair list and strengthening the Local.”
Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram delves into the history of Whip and Spoon, a kitchen supply store that operated in Portland for nearly a quarter of a century.
Fifty years ago this month, two transplants from Washington, D.C., started a business that became the Whip and Spoon – a Portland kitchen shop that would flourish in tandem with the country’s growing interest in cooking and entertaining. During their nearly two-and-a-half decades in business, the couple’s store supplied Mainers with the means to upgrade their eating and drinking at home.
Back before they moved to Portland and opened Cafe Always and went on to found Aurora Provisions and help launch El Rayo, Cheryl Lewis and Norine Kotts were part of the team that opened the Beetle’s Lunch in Allston. Professor Janice Irvine at University of Massachusetts has recorded and published this oral history interview with Kotts and Lewis about those early days.
But first there was Beetle’s Lunch! Before moving to Portland, Lewis and Kotts were two of the four lesbian co-founders of Beetle’s Lunch in 1982, a café in Allston, Massachusetts. Known as a queer-punk space also welcoming of locals, Beetle’s was named the”1983 Best Punk Restaurant” by Boston magazine. I lived a block away from Beetle’s during that time, while a graduate student at Brandeis University, and frequented the café several times. Almost four decades later, I moved to Portland from Massachusetts. Serendipitously, I met Cheryl and Norine at a dinner party. We immediately discovered, and bonded over, our shared history at Beetle’s. As a sociologist, I knew their stories would be those of a radical generation reimagining work, politics, and food. In this oral history, they recount Beetle’s origin story, and the daily pleasures and challenges of launching and running a restaurant (while in their 20s!). More broadly, their stories capture that dynamic historical moment of feminist and queer politics, a nascent food revolution, the emergence of alternative community spaces, and early ‘80s experiments in establishing collective workplaces. This oral history covers the period ca. 1981-83.
This month’s edition of Mainer News includes a feature on Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh as they made their way through the early days on their Portland careers with Hugo’s and the founding of Duckfat.
When Evans and Pugh bought Hugo’s in the fall of 2000, all they had was trust in each other’s strength and ability. They certainly didn’t have any money, and though Chef Rob went on to earn many accolades, including a James Beard Foundation award in 2009, it took a decade to attain financial security. Only in the past year or two has the couple — who sold Hugo’s to a group of its employees in 2012 — felt that Duckfat Culture had evolved to the point where they can rely on the team to run the perpetually busy restaurant without them being in the building.
The March issue also includes a report on a visit to Panda Market in Buxton and an article about using cocktail bitters with beer.
The Courier reports on two Biddeford restaurants impacted by the pandemic. Jonesy’s Main Street Cafe is closing March 28th, and the 86 year old Wonderbar is for sale.
The popular landmark’s beginnings are familiar to many. Charlie and Archie Droggitis started Charlie’s Cafe in 1935, selling beer and sandwiches in their parent’s former shoe repair shop location on Washington Street, said Charlie’s son Spiros Droggitis. A couple of years later, Archie bought a mahogany bar in Boston, had it shipped to Maine, and another brother, Ted, suggested changing the name to Wonderbar. Soon, four brothers were involved in the business — Jimmy and Alex joining Archie and Charlie.
Maine Food for Thought has published their recent panel discussion on Maine food history.
On the panel were Steve Bromage, Don Lindgren, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Sandy Oliver and Darren Ranco.
Several businesses are celebrating major decade anniversaries this year:
Maria’s Ristorante which was founded by Anthony and Madeline Napolitano and moved last year to the former Espo’s building on Congress Street.
Dock Fore was founded by sisters Susan and Nancy Hezlep in the space that had long been the home of Zeitman’s Grocery Store. Three Dollar Deweys opened at the intersection of Union and Fore before moving around the corner in 1995 to their location on Commercial Street. Deweys closed in 2018 and re-opened in 2019 under new ownership.
PFM data is a little sparse on what was taking place in 2000. It falls in the gap between my historical research and when the site started. Do any of you remember any establishments that opened in 2000?
Nosh, Sonny’s, Boda, Yordprom Coffee, Kamasouptra, Bayside Bowl, Pai Men Miyake, Wine Wise and Trader Joe’s opened.
A number of businesses are celebrating major decade anniversaries this year:
Legion Square Market was founded in 1939 by John Smaha.
Botto’s Bakery, Micucci’s Grocery and the Miss Portland Diner all opened fur business in 1949. Joseph Botto founded the bakery and sold it to Everett Mathews in 1982. Micucci’s Grocery was founded by Leo and Iris Micucci and is now run by their son Rick and his wife Anna. The Miss Portland was originally located at 175 Forest Ave.
Harbor Fish Market, The Lobster Shack and Lib’s Dairy Treats all go their start half a century ago.
Dave and Weslie Evans and Chip MacConnell opened a bar originally known as The Grizzly Bear. They changed the name to The Great Lost Bear in 1981 after a legal challenge from an West Coast business called Grizzly Bear Pizza.
1989 was a banner year for long lived openings. Ken Ng opened Panda Garden, Dana Street opened Street & Company, Susan Eklund opened Susan’s Fish & Chips, and Hi Bombay!, Brea Lu Cafe, Marcy’s, the Armory Lounge, and Parker’s all opened.
No doubt there were many openings in 1999 but I don’t have the data immediately at hand to detail them out at this time. I had just moved to Portland in 1998 and do clearly remember the opening of Local 188 in 1999.
Here’s a look at the top stories from a decade ago in January 2009:
- Portland Food Map launched a new homepage which incorporated the progenitor of the news blog you’re reading today.
- Paciarino held their grand opening, and Papaya King opened on Dana Street.
- Portland Police asked the City Council to deny the liquor license renewal for the Cactus Club.
- Little Lad’s Bakery & Cafe worked with Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld from Congreation Shaarey Tphiloh to bring their operation in alignment with kosher food preparation standards.
Discover Maine magazine has published an article on the history of Pat’s Meat Market.