A General Services Administration trailer is visible from the McDonald's parking lot, which overlooks on three sides the construction on the new port of entry and International bridge. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

MADAWASKA, Maine — After months of uncertainty about the fate of the Madawaska McDonald’s, the restaurant will close its drive-thru windows forever on Oct. 16.

The McDonald’s is the last building standing in the middle of the federal government’s construction site for the new Madawaska land port of entry on the Canadian border. Despite being surrounded by heavy machinery doing groundwork on three sides, McDonald’s has remained open.

Negotiations over the sale of the property between the corporation and the U.S. General Services Administration are ongoing, but the restaurant closing is the first public development in months. The government first announced its intent to purchase McDonald’s and its neighbors in 2019.

All current employees have been offered jobs at other restaurants in the organization. The nearest U.S. McDonald’s location is in Fort Kent, a half hour away. There is another McDonald’s minutes away from Madawaska, but across the Canadian border in neighboring Edmundston, New Brunswick.

McDonald’s has been a fixture in Madawaska for 48 years, and its loss is already painful in a community where the flight of major retailers has been an ongoing struggle. The town now has one fast food restaurant left — Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons.

“[I’m] thankful for [McDonald’s] having been a part of our community for this long. But sad and disappointed that after 48 years of our community serving their business, they made a decision to close,” Town Manager Gary Picard said.

The loss of those jobs in town and a potential reduction to incoming traffic to Madawaska are particular concerns for Picard. Businesses play off each other, he said in August, and reducing traffic to the community could be detrimental as the town works on a decade-long downtown revitalization effort.

McDonald’s is the second Madawaska restaurant to announce its closing in the past several days. The Bakery on Main — the town’s only locally owned coffee shop — announced last week that it would close Oct. 9. The bakery’s owner declined to comment earlier this week, because the property is still for sale.

Last month, Picard, current and former members of the Madawaska Board of Selectmen and other residents crafted a nearly 8-minute-long video, pleading with McDonald’s to support a new franchise in a different location in town.

The video featured the testimony of local patrons of the chain, who said the restaurant was an important, inexpensive food option for working people and their families.

Since the video was published at the end of August, it has garnered nearly 10,000 views on YouTube, and Picard said he has received an outpouring of support from the community. That said, he forwarded the video to a contact at McDonald’s, and hasn’t heard a response.

In a statement on the closing, a representative from McDonald’s said that the company was grateful for the years of loyalty from customers and staff, but did not mention the negotiations over the property or the future of the franchise. 

Because negotiations on the property itself are ongoing, the General Services Administration has not announced a tear-down date for the building, as work continues on the port of entry.

J&J Contractors, who will build the new structure, are working on the property’s water, sanitary and sewer utilities, General Services Administration spokesperson Paul Hughes said. Excavation to install building footings and construction on a retaining wall will be the contractors’ next steps.

Hannah Catlin

Hannah Catlin is a reporter at the St. John Valley Times/Fiddlehead Focus in Madawaska, Maine.