It’s about good food and people who care

Community gets to the heart of the Saint George River Cafe

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 5:00pm

Story Location:
47 Start Road
Camden, ME 04843
United States

    WARREN – I didn’t really know what to expect when I walked into the Saint George Café at 310 Main Street, but what I found was a true gastronomical delight in a warm environment built and supported by the love of a community. It’s a story worth telling and exemplifies small-town America.

    We start in Seattle, Washington, where current owner Ann Gonzales was living with her partner, Fanny Faye Davis.

    Gonzales worked as a psychotherapist and Davis worked for the school district. Davis was from the Seattle area and Gonzales was from the East Coast but had spent the last 30 years between Los Angeles and Seattle.

    Condo living was not agreeing with them and they were searching for a house with a yard; unfortunately, you had to move about two hours outside the city for that luxury and the four-hour commute each day did not sit well with them.

    Gonzales said a move East was inspired by a television show.

    “We were watching ‘The Walking Dead’,” she said. “I had read that it was filmed in Georgia and a number of the actors had thought it was so beautiful that they moved there.”

    Gonzales said it occurred to her that every place had therapists and school districts.

    “We looked a little bit in Georgia,” she said. “I’m from the Cape and we looked there, too, but it had changed a lot. And so we bought a house in Warren, sight unseen. We had never been to Warren, so we bought this house thinking we could move here and do what we had been doing.”

    Gonzales said the moving company threw a wrench into the mix.

    “We got here and our moving company that I had contracted through a broker took all of our stuff to California,” she said. “Our plan was that we would meet the truck at the house and they said we would need to pay $4,000 more or come get it.”

    Gonzales said they were in a new house with an air mattress, a coffee pot and a couple of day’s worth of clothes.

    “Nothing else and all our possessions were in a warehouse in California,” she said. “And we were being extorted thousands of dollars to get it back. I had sold my condo and we paid for the house outright and I had some money left over so I paid the ransom, but the delivery of our stuff wasn’t going to be until weeks later.”

    That’s when fate played a hand.

    “We came down to this building which was an antique store at the time,” said Gonzales. “There was a number in the window and you just called that number if you wanted something. We were looking in the window and the owners just happened to be walking their dog in the park which they rarely did.”

    Gonzales said it turned out that the building was for sale.

    “They showed us the place and within two weeks we had started Saint George River Enterprises,” she said. “By December 1, 2015, we had bought the building and started renovations for the Saint George River Café.”

    Gonzales said six months later, April 30, 2016, they opened the café.

    “We had no experience,” she said. “We had no idea how to run a café. We did have faith and it all seemed divinely inspired. I had grown up on the Cape and was a snack bar, grill cook through college. I knew all I needed was hot dogs and hamburgers and a flat top.”

    Gonzales said it was Fanny Davis who brought the menu to life.

     “She had front-of-the-house, hostess experience in upscale restaurants in the Seattle area,” Gonzales said. “She had the vision for things like blue cheese and caramelized onions. She took my food and elevated it. She designed the place and saw the potential. I’m more of a behind the scenes operational person.”

    Gonzales said delays kept postponing the opening and that’s when the community stepped in to help.

    “We were going to open on April 23, which was Saint George’s Day,” she said. “We had to delay it a week because there were still renovations going on. The day before people were coming in and we were saying that we can’t open. We’re just not ready, but I have to. I was out of money. I was out of time.”

    Gonzales said the contractor moved out and the community moved in.

    “They said ‘we want you here’,” she said. “The community showed up with all these tables and chairs and they cleaned the place. All the window boxes were planted by people in the community and they bring flowers when they have them for the tables.”

    Gonzales said the community really wanted them to be there.

    “We’ve been broken into a couple of times,” she said. “It was kids and they stole beer and wine and money. I’ll find glass jars with money in it with a note that says ‘don’t let the bad guys get you down’, or’ don’t give up.’ The community is supportive and really behind the café.”

    Gonzales said, unfortunately, her relationship with Davis did not endure and she left the restaurant, but fortunately a young man named Brandon Robinson showed up.

    “He had a lot of restaurant experience,” she said. “He was great and was tired of working for big corporations; he wanted to work in a small place. He started helping me run it and he’s been great.”

    Gonzales said they started offering late night things to do.

    “We started offering trivia on Wednesday nights when the Badger quite doing it,” she said. “That’s been great and we’re having a lot of fun. I think it’s a fascinating story because the community has been so behind the café.

    During the summer the Saint George Café is open seven days a week. 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday said Gonzales.

    “We stay open till 8:30 p.m. or later on Wednesday through Saturday,” she said. “We offer music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a writing group on Tuesdays.”

    Gluten-free and vegetarian options are available.