DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — During the annual Maine Whoopie Pie Festival in June and at the Dover-Foxcroft polls in November, a pair of surveys were conducted to gather feedback on what responders desired to see downtown.
During a selectmen’s meeting on Dec. 17 town officials were presented with the recently compiled and organized data by Piscataquis County Economic Development Council Business Development Director Janet Sawyer.
Presenting an information packet, Sawyer said that a “three-legged stool” approach of residents, businesses and municipality is recommended in the process of revitalizing a downtown by the Maine Downtown Center.
A program of the Maine Downtown Center, which is a part of the Maine Development Foundation, involves the use of a four-point approach, which is composed of organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.
“The downtown committee now has conducted two surveys,” Sawyer said, referring to the group working to revitalize the area of Dover-Foxcroft. “We wanted to find out what people wanted downtown, what their vision was.”
A little more than 200 attendees at the Whoopie Pie Festival took the survey. When asked to pick two items from a list of what they would like to see downtown, 32 percent of responders identified restaurants, 31 percent chose entertainment, 25 percent retail and 4 percent opted for services.
“We decided we would like to follow that up with a little more focus,” Sawyer said. Another survey was conducted solely of Dover-Foxcroft voters — 423 took the survey — during the election in early November.
The first question asked about what entertainment options are desired for downtown, with 33 percent of survey takers identifying performing arts, followed by 30 percent with a children’s museum, 17 percent visual arts, 16 percent museums and 4 percent other. The data were interpreted to mean that a third valued the existing Center Theatre and nearly a third want activities or something for children.
The next question asked what type of restaurant people would like to see downtown, and 29 percent said a family establishment, followed by 26 percent for a coffee shop, 17 percent pub-style, 16 percent ethnic restaurant, and 2 percent other. The interpretation is that a family restaurant is the most desired — a new establishment in the location that most recently was Abel Blood’s may fit the bill — while almost as many want a coffee shop.
The third question asked survey-takers to specify what they wanted for retail establishments. Twenty-eight percent said they want to see a bookstore, 24 percent a clothing store, with 20 percent saying a local products store and 20 percent also identifying a wellness and outdoor store.
Speaking on the next steps, Sawyer said, “We need to brand the downtown, we need a tagline, we need a logo. I think we need some professional help with that.”
She said financing these efforts could be an issue. When asked what a ballpark figure may be for the marketing efforts, Sawyer said $5,000.
“I think seeking some funding to hire a marketing company to help us get over that hurdle would be in order,” she said.
The selectmen said that part of the town budget includes funds for promotion and development, and Sawyer said the PCEDC could help in seeking grant monies for this purpose.
Vice Chairman Cindy Freeman Cyr said town officials need to make sure the public is able to see where specific municipal funds are used, such as in marketing the community.
Sawyer said that from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, there will be a “So … you think you know Dover-Foxcroft?” trivia competition at Pastimes Pub. Teams of five will compete to see who knows the town the best. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/downtowndoverfoxcroft.
“Another part of the downtown is the farmers market,” Sawyer said. From May through October farmers sold their products, and Sawyer said the Dover Cove Market Place is running online year-round at http://harvestmarket.com/farmers-market/Dover-Cove-Market-Place.
One business will be opening in the downtown later in the month, and during the Dec. 17 meeting the selectmen gave their approval to a liquor license for Pat’s Pizza at 100 East Main St. in the former Abel Blood’s building.
“A while back Janet and I had a meeting about an expansion in Milo,” said Bob Ade, who owns both the existing and soon-to-open Pat’s Pizza locations in Piscataquis County. Ade said as their conversations progressed the possibility of a Dover-Foxcroft location came up. He said he had had no intention of opening another restaurant, “but after some research it was a no-brainer.”
He said the Milo Pat’s Pizza does very well with a sports bar as part of the establishment, and business could be even better in Dover-Foxcroft, with a population about twice the size of Milo’s. “I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to getting started,” Ade said, adding that a staff of about 15 has been hired so far between the kitchen, the restaurant and the bar.
“We plan on opening the 28th,” he said, with a soft opening beforehand. “The 29th will be our grand opening.”
Ade said said plans are being made to convert a portion of the building into a banquet room, which could be open several times per week for fine dining as “Pat’s Bistro.” There are 13 Pat’s Pizzas in Maine, with a Machias location set to open in early 2013.
In other business, Town Manager Jack Clukey said that through its participation with the Maine Downtown Network, Dover-Foxcroft has been invited to participate in the Healthy Maine Streets program, which will reimburse costs up to $10,000 for two years for activities associated with promotion and setting up employee wellness programs for small businesses within the downtown.
“We would have a grant to help get those programs going,” Clukey said, noting that he has reached out to the Piscataquis Regional YMCA and the Piscataquis Public Health Council to get Healthy Maine Streets up and running.
“It’s wellness very broadly defined,” Freeman Cyr said. “It’s promoting healthy attitudes toward our community and getting people excited about some of the programs you just talked about. We’re lucky to be in that club.”