Main Street Maine's solidarity & ingenuity in the face of a pandemic

First, a note of sincere gratitude...

As Main Street Maine‘s ten downtowns are getting ready to re-open, we look back at the last several weeks since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Maine. 

We have been so very proud of businesses and organizations, many who closed doors, very early on, before the mandatory stay-at-home order, and contributed immensely in slowing down the spread of the virus in Maine. The huge financial risks that these small businesses took to become part of the solution rather than the problem, cannot be underestimated.

We are also very grateful for Main Street Maine’s very efficient and proactive downtown groups who organized quickly and provided – and continue to provide – local businesses both with timely information, support and know-how. It wasn’t easy especially early on when guidelines and state recommendations changed rapidly.

– We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Main Street Maine had never seen anything quite like this before...

After weeks of confinement, the arrival of summer, and the gradual re-opening of businesses, we’re all looking to a better, brighter future.

That said, we won’t soon forget the eerie scenes of our empty downtowns, almost completely void of pedestrians, shopkeepers, and cars. The silence of our usually bustling historic Main Streets was deafening. It really felt like we were in a bad science-fiction movie where all the inhabitants had suddenly disappeared.

Solidarity & ingenuity at work

The solidarity and ingenuity of our downtown businesses and organizations went on full display since the early stage of the COVID-19 crisis. Downtown groups organized weekly Zoom conferences, businesses shared concerns and ideas, and together came up with an array of solutions to both protect patrons, employees and options to stay open or to re-open safely.

Most businesses closed early and communicated often with their customers. They changed their business layouts and came up with new offerings more suitable to the time including online stores, phone orders, curbside pickup and delivery, virtual showcases and events.

Located in Westbrook Maine’s Dana Warp Mill, clothing manufacturer American Roots worked around the clock in order to convert their factory to produce face shields and masks desperately needed by nurses, doctors, and other responders on the front line – Bravo!

Warm meals that brought smiles

The Coronavirus pandemic brought our Main Street communities even closer together. What we witnessed was an outpouring of community service and generosity by many businesses and residents alike.

Featured here is Ricetta’s Brick Oven Ristorante in Saco, Maine that cooked and served 225+ meals to seniors through Saco Parks & Recreation Department’s food distribution program – THANK YOU!

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Ricetta’s Brick Oven Ristorante in Saco cooking and serving 225+ meals for seniors.

Although a newcomer to Water Street in Augusta, Maine, State Lunch quickly developed a curbside pickup option. We think they could win an award from making take-out food look so delicious!

They kept the art alive!

Art is all about human interactions, so the stay-at-home order while necessary, hit Maine’s art scene particularly hard.

But just like other businesses on Main Street Maine, art galleries, artist studios, music and performance venues quickly developed an online presence to entertain us and keep our spirits high during the confinement. 

It certainly wasn’t easy – even the biggest TV stars and entertainers struggled to reach their audiences in the same way. 

We thank our local artists and arts organizations for working hard to develop new online options for entertainment. We hope these online events can continue to be an additional way for artists and audiences to interact.

One of Chocolate Arts Center in (Bath, ME) live events. Featuring Lindsay Mower

Rollie’s Bar and Grill in Belfast, Maine eliminated half of its indoor table capacity to allow for patrons and staff to enjoy a safer environment. The restaurant also added a tent in the lot next door to increase its overall seating capacity while providing room for social distancing and fun too.

Historic movie theaters now livestreaming!

Main Street Maine still has many historic movie theaters in operation. But when the faithful moviegoers were asked to stay home, these financially fragile institutions had to quickly come up with a solution. Fortunately, film distributors, also wanting their movies shown, worked together with some of our local theaters to offer livestream options. A win-win approach likely to remain available in the future as an additional source of entertainment and revenue stream for independent theaters such as the Evening Star in Brunswick, the Colonial Theater in Belfast, and the Strand Theatre in Rockland.

The Strand Theatre in Rockland, ME now offers a livestream option.
Skowhegan‘s Bankery and Skowhegan Fleuriste never cease to amaze us with their delightful displays and offerings. They transformed the idea of curbside pickup into a more appealing “Le Curbside Pickup a la Skowhegan”. Curbside shopping doesn’t have to be limited, boring and uninviting. Thanks The Bankery and Skowhegan Fleuriste for showing us how to do it right!

To the beermobile!

Maine is home to 150+ breweries, many of which can be found in or around our ten Main Street Maine communities. Just a few years ago, it was estimated that craft breweries added $228 million to Maine’s economy, and employed thousands. So when confinement orders were instated, our breweries – like Banded Brewing in Biddeford, ME – with a perishable product on hand, also had to react swiftly. Many of them have started curbside pickup and local home delivery of their beers – Cheers!

Banded Brewing in Biddeford ME offers both delivery and curbside pickup 

With public indoor exercise places still closed, Main Street Maine’s downtown trails have been a welcome option for healthy activities. Featured here is Bath‘s beautiful, walkable waterfront park!

Pop-up shops to avoid lines & crowds!

Looking to have kitchen supplies and pre-packaged dinner items delivered to your car so you don’t have to wait in lines at big supermarkets? Wanting to avoid interaction with the masses? Little Dog Coffee Shop in downtown Brunswick, Maine came up with a pop-up shop for essential items – including, yes, the very elusive toilet paper 🙂 Simple and clever!


From foot traffic to live online auctions

Antique shops essentially depend on foot traffic on our Main Streets to sell their merchandise. So when they had to close, many developed online and social media stores. Some, like Cobalt Moon Antiques in beautiful historic Gardiner Maine, is now organizing very successful live Friday evening online auctions –  Very smart!

… a tiny showcase of Main Street Maine’s solidarity & ingenuity in the face of a pandemic.

Thank you for joining us in remembering, thanking and learning more about our Main Street entrepreneurs.

The fight against the virus isn’t over but we are very carefully and cleverly re-opening our Main Streets, one of Maine’s most vital economic assets. We hope to see you on Main Street Maine! Please share this – thank you.

See You Soon!

Our ten Main Street Maine communities and small businesses look forward to seeing you soon. 

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Main Street Maine highlights Maine’s 10 National Main Street communities that are vibrant places to find local food, shops, cultural happenings and great New England architecture.

Plan your visit to Augusta, Bath, Belfast, Biddeford, Brunswick, Gardiner, Rockland, Saco, Skowhegan and Westbrook at mainstreetmaine.org

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