Daryl and Heidi Abbotoni of Houlton stand in front of their McDonald's restaurant in 2015. The couple have sold their family-owned McDonalds franchise in northern Maine, which includes restaurants in Houlton, Presque Isle, Caribou, Lincoln and Calais. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — A family-owned chain of five McDonald’s restaurants in northern Maine, dating back to the 1970s, has been sold to a New Hampshire-based company.

The sale brings to an end a nearly 50-year family tradition of selling burgers, fries and shakes to the local community.

The five restaurants — located in Houlton, Presque Isle, Caribou, Lincoln and Calais — have been owned and operated by Daryl and Heidi Abbotoni of Houlton since 2008. Heidi’s parents Ed and Dawn Degenhardt, who opened their first McDonald’s in 1974, owned the chain of restaurants before that.

The Napoli Group, LLC out of Amherst, New Hampshire, purchased all five McDonald’s franchises owned by the Abbotoni family on Sept. 15. That company already owns 61 McDonald’s restaurants throughout New England.

“My son and I are excited to purchase the five McDonald’s restaurants from Heidi,” Peter Napoli said. “We look forward to serving those five communities with great tasting food and excellent service like Heidi and her family have done for many years.”

 

“We have a great deal of respect for all of the operators we have known over the years and would have never considered selling to anyone that would not take care of our people,” Heidi Abbotoni said Wednesday.

The company employed upward of 300 people. All managers and crew members have been offered continued employment, Napoli added.

Even still, selling the family business was not an easy decision for the Abbotonis.

“We had thought about it off and on for many years,” Heidi Abbotoni said. “Our goal was always to retire early.”

A medical health event in December 2017 cemented the couple’s notion that it was time to sell the business. Daryl Abbotoni was 50 years old when he went into sudden cardiac arrest in the parking lot of the Houlton McDonald’s.

“That made it even more clear to us that we needed a much less stressful life,” Heidi Abbotoni said. “It’s a 24-7 commitment. I have never had a vacation where I wasn’t checking my phone or my email. We knew we needed a change.”

McDonald’s Houlton location opened its doors on Dec. 16, 1975, under the ownership of Ed and Dawn Degenhardt. They started their franchise experience with a location in Millinocket in 1974, with a promise from the McDonald’s corporation that a restaurant would be opened in Houlton the following year.

The Degenhardts retired from the business in 2008, with the Abbotonis taking over the franchise that included restaurants in Calais (added in 1980); Lincoln (1982); and Presque Isle and Caribou (purchased in 2003). The Millinocket location was sold in 2008.

In 2017, the original Houlton location, with its one-of-a-kind working fireplace, was demolished and replaced with the modern McCafe style restaurant building. In 2019, it was Presque Isle’s turn for a new building as the Star City’s McDonald’s was torn down and rebuilt with stylings similar to the Houlton location.

Her father’s passing in August made it a little bit easier for Abbotoni to let go of the family business, she said.

“I am sure he would have been shocked, but he would have understood,” she said. “There was always a concern with him about the heavy weight this business placed on my shoulders.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story named the incorrect Napoli Group that purchased the five Maine McDonald’s franchises.