BELFAST, Maine — For more than 30 years, Belfast residents and visitors have found a warm welcome and a good meal at Darby’s Restaurant, a High Street mainstay that has seen the city through periods of boom and bust.
And if you’ve eaten at Darby’s, you’ve probably shared a word or two with owner Jerry Savitz, who died on Monday at his Northport home at the age of 74. Savitz was remembered as an indefatigable entrepreneur and dedicated family man who also found time to volunteer for many years for local organizations such as the Belfast Maskers and the Belfast Co-op.
“It’s definitely a big loss,” Doug Johnson, the interim general manager of the Belfast Co-op, said Tuesday afternoon.
Savitz, who was treasurer of the co-op board of directors, began serving on the organization’s board in 1991.
“He brought a level of professionalism, insight and compassion,” Johnson said. “He wasn’t this stern businessman. He wasn’t an old fuddy-duddy. He was very progressive and very insightful about the things he would bring to the conversation.”
Theater director Aynne Ames said that Savitz, who served for years as president of the Belfast Maskers, also was passionate about the arts.
“I found him to be loyal, upfront and an honorable person to work with,” she said. “I think it is a huge loss to the town.”
According to Ned Lightner, a Northport neighbor of Savitz and the general manager of Belfast Community Television, the restaurateur was always an “amazing entrepreneur.”
Savitz’s father had owned Penobscot Poultry, one of the city’s two chicken processing plants. When the younger Savitz was still a teen, he figured out that there was a valuable market for a particular type of rooster feather for ladies’ hats. For a few heady years, he made more money than he could spend, he recalled in a 2011 BCTV interview, at least until his dad figured out that he was missing out on a lucrative income stream.
“And that was the end of my feather business,” Savitz said in the interview.
After that, he kept on trying his hand at different types of commerce. He opened a wholesale lobster business, raised milk-fed veal and started the Belfast Boatyard on the waterfront. He opened the first swanky restaurant in Belfast, called City Boat Landing, and opened and closed Darby’s Restaurant twice before he opened it the third and final time.
“The thing about people who are successful, they aren’t always successful the first time out,” Lightner said. “But keeping at it, that’s what I think is great.”
Savitz is survived by his wife, Gail Savitz, and sons, Carl and Isaac. According to an announcement in The Republican Journal, there will be a memorial service celebrating his life next summer at his home in Northport.