by Emily Burnham

of The Weekly Staff

After nearly two years of dreaming, planning and hard work, on April 1 Tiller & Rye, a new natural and organic grocery store, opened at 20 South Main St. in Brewer. A grand opening celebration for the 9,500 square foot store was held on April 7.

Tiller & Rye will offer humanely raised, often locally-sourced meat, eggs and dairy, organic produce, a variety of local breads, cheeses, wines, ciders and beers, and other staples of natural foods store, such as bulk spices, nuts, beans and grains, many gluten and dairy-free offerings, natural beverages, eco-friendly home and body care products, and a deli, juice and coffee bar. They also plan to offer a variety of Maine-grown produce from local farms when in season.

Owners Sarah Marble Morneault and Lindsey Levesque, both natives of the Bangor area, have been working on their plan for the store since 2013. The pair have been friends for 15 years and worked together at the Sea Dog Brewing Company in Bangor for many years before leaving to begin work on their joint venture.

Last spring, they acquired a lease for the 20 Main St. property — the former location of Brooks Pharmacy and most recently a furniture store — and received a $50,000 grant from the Maine Department of Community and Economic Development. It took four months to renovate the building into a spacious, sunny grocery store, outfitted with natural wood accents and murals and other art on the walls.

Morneault studied business at the University of Maine, and Levesque runs her own small farm, raising pigs, chickens and turkeys at her home on outer Ohio Street in Bangor, so the business partners are uniquely positioned to open a natural foods store. They originally wanted to start a business making goat milk products, but soon realized a better business option would be to capitalize more fully on the ever-expanding local and organic food movement in Maine.

“The more we researched the market, the more we realized that a store providing natural, local and organic foods was what the public was most interested in,” said Morneault. “Personally, we really wanted a store where we could buy food and not have to worry about what we were putting in our bodies.”

Tiller & Rye will partner with a variety of area farmers and artisans to offer locally-sourced food in their store, from Maine-grown vegetables, berries, potatoes and apples to bread from Massimo’s Bakery in Bangor, meat from A Wee Bit Farm in Orland, cheese and yogurt from Balfour Farms in Pittsfield, and a variety of canned goods from Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen in Stonington, among many other Maine providers.

“There are so many truly amazing farmers and artisans in this state and by featuring them, our customers can learn just who and where their products are coming from,” said Morneault.

“There are a lot of excited farmers out there,” added Levesque.

Tiller & Rye will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The store can be reached by calling 573-4021. For more information, like Tiller & Rye on Facebook or visit tillerandrye.com.