BELFAST, Maine — Call it the “Main Street shuffle.”
Change is afoot in the heart of Belfast, with two businesses from Knox County opening up shop here and with other longtime downtown enterprises moving from one location to another.
“This is good health,” Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall said Friday. “It’s a sign that people are willing to come to Belfast and invest, and that other businesses were doing well enough that they wanted to expand. I take all those as being very much positives.”
The shuffle began late last year when Abby and Jeff Gilchrist, owners of Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, decided that they wanted to expand from the space they were renting at 159 High St. and purchased a building on lower Main Street. This spring, the Gilchrists have been refurbishing their new building’s storefront space and opened in the new location, about a block away from the old location, on April 1.
Abby Gilchrist said Friday that the new space has about 2,500 square feet, about 800 more square feet than they had previously, and it will allow the couple to add a dedicated classroom space for quilting and crafts. They also will be able to expand their line of art supplies.
“It’s really great to be on Main Street,” Gilchrist said. “I’m really excited to be in the thick of it.”
But when they moved in, the Chocolate Drop Candy Shop and Harbor Artisans had to move out. Owners of the candy and ice cream shop, which had been open at that location for more than 20 years, said that it initially was hard to find a new home. But last fall, Bryant Hall, the proprietor of The Cool Spot ice cream store, decided to give up his lease and the owners of the building quickly contacted Dave Crabiel of the Chocolate Drop Candy Shop. He expects the shop to reopen there by mid-May.
“We were just happy to find another spot on Main Street,” Crabiel, the co-owner of the business, said. “They’re rare, and they go quickly. I remember back in 2009 when there were seven to 10 empty storefronts. Since then, there’s been [no vacancies.] It’s been absolutely fantastic for the town. It seems right now we have a good mix, and we’re very excited. Very much looking forward to the summer.”
Belfast Harbor Artisans still is searching for a new home in the city, according to a post on the gallery’s Facebook page.
“We are still searching for a new home in Belfast and we won’t give up until we find one,” it read.
Meanwhile, the family that owns Camden’s Bagel Cafe decided that they would like to open a new branch of their business in the building formerly occupied by Fiddlehead Artisan Supply.
“We just really like Belfast,” co-owner Mark Senders said. “We really like the town, we really like the people and it’s a great market for our bagels.”
He said he expects the business to be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days a week, at least initially, and should open its doors to customers in the beginning of June.
A second Knox County business, Sidecountry Sports of Rockland, is going to open its doors in another Main Street storefront. Co-owners Andrew Dailey and Brian Kelly decided to come to Belfast after learning that Mike McDonald of Belfast Bicycles was closing the doors to his store after a 12-year run. Sidecountry Sports will be open seasonally in Belfast, at least initially, Dailey said. It will offer bicycle sales, service and rentals.
“I would love to see the bike market grow up there,” he said, adding that when the city’s long-planned Rail Trail project is completed, it should be a draw for cyclists. “We’d love to see that happen.”
Breanna Pinkham Bebb, executive director of the downtown booster group Our Town Belfast, said that the changes are positive ones.
“Change is a good thing, if the change is in line with supporting and growing small businesses,” she said. “I think that people are seeing Belfast as a good place to grow.”