BRUNSWICK, Maine — Kelley Hughes still has the wooden Wildflours Gluten-Free Bakery and Cafe sign that hung outside her bakery and cafe at 45 Maine St. until a fire two years ago destroyed the building — along with four other businesses and more than a dozen apartments.
The smell of smoke lingers on the sign, and Hughes said she has held off hanging it at her new headquarters on Cumberland for fear people will think she has opened a new bakery.
She is likely inside baking on any given day, but the gluten-free cakes, bagels and cupcakes are sold at farmers markets and in local cafes and stores.
Business, she said, is thriving — as it is for everyone whose shops and storefronts were burned out on April 17, 2011.
“While the embers were still burning,” Becky and Phil Doughty transferred the number of their business, Communication Network, to their Topsham home, and they were back in business, Becky said Monday.
Now, they work from the basement of their home, “still doing exactly the same thing” — upgrading and repairing computers, removing viruses and malware and working on data recovery and data transfer.
Marita Wallace, of EZAuctioNet, is also back, although she lost about two-thirds of her inventory of 7,500 items listed on eBay at the time of the fire (the rest were stored elsewhere).
But six weeks after the fire, Wallace was listing from a new location, and she’s currently on Bay Bridge Road, with about 6,000 items listed and former customers continuing to return, “slowly but surely.”
Licensed massage therapist Amanda Cleaves of Kneaded Touch Massage Therapy was on her way to work at about 7 a.m. April 17, 2001, when she got a phone call from Jill Jacobs.
“Jill said, ‘Hey, the building is on fire, but everything is going to be OK,’” Cleaves said Tuesday. “It was 7 something in the morning. I was very tired, and I said OK and hung up. Then I called her back.”
Cleaves spent the rest of the day with other business owners milling about the building, and then watched as it was torn down.
Within two weeks, she was in a new space, at 54 Cumberland St. — a location she now shares with Wildflours Bakery.
“Customers were looking for me afterwards,” Hughes said of the fire. “They were and are amazing. I never say never [about another bakery], but the farmers markets and wholesale are going really well.”
This summer, she plans to sell her goods at the Falmouth and Crystal Spring farmers markets, and she’s also in many of the Bath-Brunswick area’s cafes, coffee shops and markets.
“I like the theory of being where people are going to eat anyway, so that if you have to be the one [who is] gluten-free, you can also get something,” she said. “I miss the store a lot, but at least for right now, this is working very well.”
Jill Jacobs, whose hair salon, Bounce Cut and Color, was destroyed in the fire, bounced around a bit afterwards. Then, in November 2012, she opened The Mix, a store that offers just that. Jacobs takes hair appointments but The Mix also sells bags, jewelry and clothing by mostly Maine artists. The store is just across Mason Street from 45 Maine St.
After the fire, she said, “I cleaned a house, I gardened for awhile, and I baked for Kelley [Hughes].” Then she rented a chair at another local salon, but ultimately decided to open the mix so she could continue to style hair and sell art.
“All these things I have a passion for, and I get to do them all now,” she said Wednesday. “Two years ago, I had a lot to be grateful for, but they were really different. It’s been a really interesting journey.”