PORTLAND, Maine — Whoever said going into business with your spouse should be avoided never met Mary Allen Lindemann and Alan Spear.

The founders of Coffee By Design were named Maine’s Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The couple will be invited to Washington to vie for a national award in mid-May.

“The company has a long track record of leading not only locally but regionally as well,” said Seth Goodall, New England administrator for the federal government’s small-business advocacy arm. “These awards honor companies that are exceptionally strong and contribute to New England’s economy.”

Goodall said Coffee By Design’s steady growth and eagerness to “promote their product not only through sales but word of mouth” made the company rise to the top.

Celebrating 20 years in business this July, the Portland roasters have been on an updraft of late. They purchased a 45,000-square-foot warehouse in East Bayside and opened a swank new cafe/roastery and coffee lab last month. Spear travels the world to meet with coffee farmers, and the company’s wholesale clients from Fort Fairfield to Chicago continues to expand.

Nominations are judged on criteria such as staying power, employee growth and increase in sales and innovation. Matthew Qualey of Qualey Granite & Quartz in Veazie nabbed the state’s top award last year.

“For those of us in the food service industry in the state of Maine, it is nice on a statewide level to have what we do be recognized and valued,” said Lindemann. “We are thrilled.”

The specialty coffee company, with 55 employees and five cafes, has a long history of supporting local arts and nonprofit groups. A dollar for each pound of their Rebel Blend, for example, is funneled to community arts funding. The couple co-founded Portland Buy Local and First Friday Artwalk.

Paul Collins, vice president of Androscoggin Bank, nominated them.

“Once you hear their backstory, which is success through work and determination, it’s a story that a lot of small businesses aspire to,” said Collins, who gave Coffee By Design a loan to purchase its new headquarters. “When I was asked to nominate someone, I thought of them first.”

Also awarded this year:

— Josh Davis and Bruno Tropeano, owners of The Gelato Fiasco, were named Young Entrepreneurs of the Year.

— Cyndi Price, owner of Loo-Hoo LLC, was named Home-Based Business Champion.

— Deblois Electric was named Jeffrey Butland Family Owned Small Business of the Year.

— G-Force Laser Tag, owned by Brian and Kimberly Plavnick, received the Maine Micro-Enterprise Award.

— Peter McVety, owner of Mcvety’s Hearth and Home, received the Veteran Small Business Owner of the Year Award.

— Amy Bouchard, owner of Isamax Snacks Inc., received Woman Small Business Owner of the Year Award.

Maine award winners will be celebrated at the Hilton Garden Inn in Portland on June 17.


Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.