MILBRIDGE, Maine — All have different reasons, but representatives of a handful of businesses and organizations that have opened or relocated here say Milbridge is a good place to be.
The Washington County Council of Governments moved its office from Cherryfield to 19 Main St. in Milbridge in December, according to Executive Director Judy East. Downeast & Acadia Regional Tourism and the Downeast Resource Conservation and Development Council, which shared space with the council in Cherryfield, also came along.
East said Milbridge is a good place for businesses because of the services on Main Street, which include restaurants, banks, a grocery store, the Milbridge Historical Society museum and gift shops.
But the primary reason the council moved was for better Internet speed.
“WCCOG has a file server located in Calais and backup systems — cloud and off-site — so we can share [and] back up files,” East said. “[But] for it to work effectively we need the highest broadband speeds we can get.”
The speeds available in Cherryfield from Time Warner Cable were insufficient, she said. So far, the Washington County Council of Governments has been able to get effective service in Milbridge with GWI.
The gift shop Riverlily, which also was located in Cherryfield, will open May 1 on Main Street, according to owner PJ Trowell. The seasonal shop carries an eclectic mix of bath and beauty products, kitchen items, jams and sauces, candles, jewelry, books for gardeners and cooks and other things.
Trowell, who also owns a Riverlily store in Apalachicola, Florida, noted that tourists on their way from the Acadia National Park area must go north, through Milbridge, in order to reach destinations such as Lubec and Eastport.
“It is a great location right on U.S. [Route] 1,” she said. “It’s a great little place to be, I think.”
Trowell said the building in Milbridge doesn’t have stairs, which is good because she was having difficulty navigating the stairs at the Cherryfield location.
Trowell and her husband, Jeff, bought the building in Milbridge in 2013 — about two years after opening their store in Cherryfield in July 2011.
“We didn’t really think much about moving from Cherryfield to Milbridge in the beginning,” Trowell said. “But the more we worked on the [Milbridge] building, the more we began to think about having a retail space there.”
The renovations to the building have been extensive, Trowell said.
They included taking all the siding off, making repairs behind it, putting up new siding and tearing off a side building. They also updated the heating and electrical systems.
“Just about everything that imposed or could be a hazard has been redone,” she said.
The former Gay’s Shop ’n Save also will need renovation. Located two doors down from 44 Degrees North Restaurant and Pub at 17 Main St., the site will be converted into an event center, said Jolette Rossi-West, who owns the restaurant and the former grocery building. She hopes to have the event center open May 1.
She said she bought the building in November as a property investment because it’s located next door to the one occupied by the Washington County Council of Governments, which she also owns. The restaurant is located on the other side of the council.
“I think we have the population and the flow of traffic in the summertime,” and this is good for business, she said. She hopes there will be enough traffic to pick up “a couple of catering gigs.”
The event center will not be affiliated with the restaurant — it won’t provide overflow seating, for example — but its close proximity to the restaurant will make catering jobs easier, she said.
Alex “Big Cat” Grant and his wife, Betsey, are moving in the opposite direction of Rossi-West. They own an established catering business called Big Cat’s Catering and opened a restaurant that will be named Big Cat’s Bar and Grille. The new restaurant debuted Jan. 27 at the catering business’s Milbridge location on Route 1A, just north of town.
“Everyone’s been bugging me to open a restaurant,” Grant, a Hancock resident who originally is from Columbia Falls, said.
Having a restaurant means clients can eat Big Cat’s food without having to go to a catered event, according to Grant, who has run his catering business for about five years.
The restaurant first opened its doors Jan. 27. It did so well the first week that they ran out of half the menu items by Jan. 30. As a result, they didn’t reopen to resume regular hours until Feb. 3.
“It’s exceeded my expectations for this time of year, that’s for sure,” he said.