BANGOR, Maine — In these hard economic times it’s scary to start a business, especially when unemployed. But that fear didn’t stop a local couple from risking it all in a venture on the city’s waterfront.
Longtime sandwich maker Dan Hoxie and Rachel Larrabee, who takes orders and makes change, opened Dan’s Deli Deluxe along Railroad Street last week. They are the first food vendor to take advantage of new rules that allow seasonal concessions on the waterfront.
“Dan has so much experience it has made my nerves much calmer,” Larabee said on Friday. “We have a good product. We’re confident about that.”
Hoxie knows how to make a sandwich after working 18 years at Epi Sub and Pizza, a popular downtown sandwich shop that closed in April. After he was laid off, he and Larabee — who has been unemployed for more than a year — decided to invest in their future.
“Our life savings went into this,” Larrabee said. Dan has “about 25 years total in the restaurant business — he can do it in his sleep.”
On the Dan’s Deli Deluxe menu are typical vendor fair: cheese steaks, grilled chicken and sausage sandwiches, hot dogs and cheeseburgers, as well as homemade veggie burgers, and chicken Caesar and house salads.
“We do chili and a soup every day, and both are homemade,” Larrabee said. For snacks, “today, we have ooey-gooey brownies, homemade with walnuts and Rice Krispies.”
Dan’s hours now are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. every day, but the shop is “brand-new, so we’re testing the waters” and could possibly change hours, Larrabee said. “If it’s busy enough, we would just as soon be here.”
The Bangor couple purchased and refurbished a 1994 vendor trailer with all new equipment and paint. The stand looks as if it just rolled off the showroom floor.
City councilors gave the go-ahead in mid-February to allow the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department to lease space near the waterfront for seasonal food vendors.
The vendor space is on Railroad Street, near the tracks and the corner of Front Street. That area was picked because it has easy access to water and electricity and allows for good visibility without cluttering the waterfront park, said Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette.
“We’ve got four available spots and two confirmed” vendors, he said Friday. A hot dog vender plans to open next to Dan’s Deli Deluxe in the next week or so.
“So far we’ve had a good start,” he said.
The seasonal vendors are allowed to operate this year between May 24 and Oct. 3. The operators pay a $1,500 fee for the whole season or $1,000 for a shorter summer pass that runs from June 28 through Sept. 6.
Spots are rented first come, first served, and vendors are not allowed to operate during specific events, such as the American Folk Festival, which has its own concessions. To avoid closing, Hoxie and Larrabee are looking into applying to operate during the folk festival, they said.
Dan’s pickup window looks out on the Penobscot River, and two picnic tables, one shaded by a tent, have been set up for customers to enjoy their meals. “It’s a beautiful view,” Larrabee said.