ELLSWORTH, Maine — This week Rooster Brother will celebrate 25 years of roasting coffee, slicing cheese and selling cookware. At the helm of the shop are husband and wife duo Pamela and George Elias, both 65 and from Surry.
The Eliases have both always been passionate about food, but neither wanted to run a restaurant. When they thought about starting a business where they could spend time with their children, cookware seemed like a good fit. The real motivator, as George Elias tells it, came with the wind.
“I was a building contractor. I was on a roof one day and it was 15 degrees. I looked around me and everyone else was at least a decade younger than I was. It was time for a change,” he said.
At that time, Pamela Elias was baking bread for local stores.
Rooster Brother is now in a four-story building the Eliases own, but it started in a 16-by-20-foot room in the building where the Lobster Pot is.
“It was smaller than this,” Pamela said, pointing to the deli in the downstairs part of her store, which is run by employees who might be younger than the store. Pamela walked around her store and looked at the wines, which she personally helped picked out. From a shelf, she pulled off a box of tea, which she selected for the store. She pointed to a shelf of chocolate bars.
“We don’t put anything on the shelf unless we have tried it and it’s good,” she said. “Like the chocolate. A product might have a pretty package, but if it’s not good, it doesn’t go on the shelf.”
The downstairs section of the store has the coffee roastery and cafe and deli. It’s where locals pop by to grab a molasses cookie. That part of the store makes up about half of Rooster Brother sales — matched by the sales of the second floor full of fiestaware, sail-boat-patterned napkins, cookie cutters and other kitchenware.
“It’s fun finding new things,” Pamela said, walking through the store. For instance, she said, she buys metal clips from a dental supplier so people can create makeshift lobster bibs by attaching a napkin to the clips.
In the last 25 years the shop has changed a lot. The Eliases went from renting part of the 1893 building to purchasing it. They expanded and now make lots of food, including sausage and about 20,000 cookies per year. They roast coffee and distribute it around the world. And as Rooster Brother grew, the Eliases watched the town change.
“Ellsworth is a great place to be. It’s rejuvenated from what it was when we moved here. It used to be quiet. Now there are lots of small businesses on Main Street and everyone supports each other,” George Elias said.
“It used to be a drive-through town,” Pamela Elias said. “Now people stop. Ellsworth has become more vibrant in 25 years.”
Both agreed — after a quarter decade of running the store, it’s still a good time and they would do it all over again if they had to.
“It’s fun. We get to develop all these great recipes and make people happy. I think that’s special,” George said.
To celebrate the 25th birthday, Rooster Brother will host various prize drawings this week and two book signings. For information visit roosterbrother.com.