PORTLAND, Maine — No one is taking a bigger bite out of Portland’s food scene than the statewide labor shortage.
Toast Bar, a popular satellite bakery of Scratch Baking Co. on the same lot as a baking facility for the South Portland staple in Willard Square, closed suddenly Sept. 8. This week, it announced that it would not open its doors again until spring.
“Unfortunately with the current labor shortage we just can’t find the staff to provide the experience and service to our customers that is so important to us,” read a Wednesday social media post from Scratch Baking. Scratch, considered one of the area’s best bakeries, is still in operation a mile away.
The fate of the bakery remains to be seen, but it marks the latest in an alarming list of closures from popular eateries in Greater Portland, which has been linked to a labor shortage affecting industries across the state. The issue has become particularly pronounced in Portland, where service workers in food industries — who are often paid below-average wages — are being pushed to locations outside the city because they cannot keep up with rising rents.
As with recent closures, the Toast Bar did not lack for patronage. The bustling bagel-and-coffee stop was built out of a former gas station and lube shop on Broadway and Sawyer Road, two main arteries in South Portland, in September 2016. The Bread Kitchen, the non-retail industrial baking facility for Scratch that is located in the same lot as Toast Bar, will remain in use.
Described as a “dream of 12 years” by Scratch Baking co-owner Allison Reid, Toast Bar quickly become a destination fave for city tourists.
The BDN reported in 2016 that Toast Bar would sell “banana bread, buttermilk cornbread, English muffins, artisanal loaves and bagels” all made from scratch.
Attempts to reach co-owners Reid and Bob Johnson were not immediately successful.