MEXICO, Maine — Missing out on lunch isn’t the major concern River Valley residents have with the closing of Maddy’s Pizza on Friday.
More important, the community will feel the loss of a business that constantly gave to those it served for 41 years.
Due to tough economic times, competing food chains and hospital bills, Maddy’s Pizza was forced to shut its doors for good, restaurant owner Norma Arsenault said.
“We had been talking about closing for awhile,” she said. “With Amato’s opening and Greg getting sick, I knew I couldn’t keep it open.”
Greg Arsenault, Norma’s husband and co-owner of the restaurant, was recently hospitalized at Central Maine Medical Center for what doctors believed was toxic shock syndrome, she said.
“He was on full life support for three days,” Norma said. “Doctors told him today he shouldn’t be alive.”
Greg and Norma have owned Maddy’s Pizza for 17 years. They had taken over running the restaurant from Norma’s mother, Maddy Lauzier, who opened it Dec. 7, 1970.
“They have never said no to donating to a benefit,” Kim Chaisson, a friend of the Arsenaults, said. “They’ve always given, even when they really had nothing to give.”
Greg and Norma have been involved with the town of Mexico’s Recreation Department for about 25 years. Greg had previously been on the recreation board for the town and eventually took the job as recreation director.
In June, town residents voted to reduce the position from full time to 20 hours, and Arsenault lost his health benefits. Arsenault resigned from the position later that month.
Ryan Palmer, who helps run the Greater Rumford Community Center, said Arsenault was always there for the kids.
“I think the closing of Maddy’s affected me more than them,” Palmer joked. “I literally was there everyday.”
Palmer said Arsenault had become like a father figure to him and was always helping kids and their programs.
“He just has a heart of gold,” Palmer said.
Others agreed, saying Arsenault was instrumental in bringing several programs and events for children to the Mexico Recreation Department.
“This is a family that has just been here for the community,” said Cathy Arsenault, who is unrelated, but is helping Chaisson organize a benefit on Jan. 28 for the couple.
The benefit is still in the planning stages, but Scot Grassette, owner of 49 Franklin, has donated his facility and DJ services for the event.
“I’ve been involved with benefits with music and magic since high school,” he said. “Maddy’s has always given gift certificates for all of them. We figured if anyone deserves a fundraiser, it’s them.”
Norma Arsenault said they are now trying to sell the vacant restaurant on Main Street in Mexico.
On Monday, she said she was thankful because doctors had informed her that Greg would be moved to Rumford Hospital.
“He still has a long way to go and has to do physical therapy,” she said.
Norma attributed her husband’s recovery to the overwhelming prayers and support given to the family by the community.
“It’s just amazing,” she said.
Anyone wishing to help with fundraising efforts or wanting to donate may contact Kim Chaisson at 364-7953.
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