PORTLAND, Maine — After a slow, dwindling summer, Portland’s once-favored dining institution the Pepperclub and its breakfast outpost The Good Egg Cafe will serve its last meals this month.
The 25-year-old business was looking to relocate in the city, but owner Melissa Sawyer, reached by phone Tuesday, has called off the search.
“I am exhausted,” said Sawyer, who scoured the peninsula for a turn-key restaurant to transform a once-winning formula of affordable organic vegetarian, gluten-free entrees and local seafood in a relaxed setting.
“I’m so confused as to what happened. I know the city has reached a saturation point. I was looking at places that were $35 a square foot and I just about fell over,” she said.
In April, then-owner Mary Paine announced that she was a victim of rising rents in a city where many businesses, specifically restaurants, are getting priced out. Sawyer said business plummeted soon after the announcement because the perception that the restaurant had closed was hard to shake.
“We anticipated a very profitable summer. We were going to make some financial moves, but numbers dipped this summer to levels I have never seen.”
Being located on the same block as Eventide Oyster Co. and Hugo’s made it all the more difficult. “Tourists want to go to places with a national reputation,” said Sawyer, who said the owners of these hotspots plan to expand into her space.
This week she is taking steps to liquidate the company and hold an equipment auction.
“I am not sure when our last day is, but we have to be out by Sept 30th,” Sawyer said.
Dinner service is winding down at 78 Middle St. The Pepperclub will likely cease to exist after this week, and breakfast at the Good Egg Cafe will continue at least next week. Sawyer plans to have a closing party, though details haven’t been finalized yet.
“We would love to stay open, we love our clientele. We would love to grow,” she said. “I hope that we will re-open as something else. Right now I just have to get everyone situated.”