Fans of popular Biddeford restaurant Custom Deluxe Northcountry Kitchen were surprised to learn weeks ago that the restaurant, which opened in 2015, had shuttered its doors, presumably for good.
There was no announcement of the closure on the restaurant’s social media pages. A Maine Craigslist posting advertising the space, which went online around the time of the restaurant’s closure, has since been deleted by its author.
It’s unclear why exactly the restaurant closed; it was a fixture among Biddeford residents as a tasty and dependable place to dine any night of the week.
“Sometimes, when businesses close, they don’t make it public to my office or elsewhere,” Daniel Stevenson, the city’s economic development director, said. “It was difficult news to hear, though, because they were one of the most popular restaurants in the downtown and with some of the best food.
“I’m unaware of any level of specificity of why they closed,” he said. “It was a good anchor restaurant in the downtown.”
Steve Ebling, the building’s owner, could not be reached for comment by press time on Thursday.
With the recent closure of several other downtown businesses, including Quinn’s Bike & Fitness on Elm Street, and Music Plus — adjacent to Custom Deluxe — Mayor Alan Casavant’s proclamation in February that the city is in the midst of a “Biddosance” has come into question.
“We are in 2017 and the ‘Biddosance,’ as I like to call it, is in full swing,” Casavant said during his “State of the City” address Feb. 7. “Having grown up in Biddeford, I could not have predicted, 50 years ago, the renaissance of this old mill town.”
But Stevenson said the city is seeing a surge in business development, despite a few establishments not working out.
“What happens in downtowns is they continue to reinvent themselves. We want to get as many bodies on Main Street as we can,” he said. “That keeps people living here and spending their dollars locally.”
Stevenson said there are a number of reasons businesses may shutter their doors that aren’t necessarily poor indicators of a city’s local economy. Businesses may not bring in as much revenue as anticipated, people could leave to seek other business ventures or health reasons could cause businesses to close.
“If we look at when businesses leave, it opens up opportunities for other businesses to come in and succeed,” Stevenson said. “Biddeford is still in that mode of growth right now downtown.”
He pointed to the Bangor Savings Bank’s plans to renovate a historic building at 208 Main St., with plans to open a new branch of the bank with business offices in 2018, as an example.
City numbers also point toward positive growth.
According to the Biddeford Beat, the city’s weekly newsletter, total new value in Biddeford exceeded $56 million in 2016, nearly $15.5 million of which came in the downtown alone.
“The investment numbers far exceed anything we’ve ever done,” Stevenson said, adding the public investment in the city’s downtown, including new sidewalks, planters and improvements to the city’s RiverWalk attraction, have only added to the downtown valuation.
Stevenson said it’s important to focus on more than just the downtown area. The construction of three businesses on Alfred Street — a Five Guys restaurant across from the Shops at Biddeford Crossing; a Starbucks coffee shop at the Five Points intersection; and a combination Taco Bell-Jiffy Lube near the Robert G. Dodge Industrial Park — points to the city’s continued growth.
“We are still in the ‘Biddosance,’” Stevenson said. “We will continue to work with existing businesses as well as new ones as they come in.”