For those coming back to Maine for the summer, here's what's new...

Welcome back to Rockland, Snow Birds 2016

Thu, 06/02/2016 - 8:30am

    Every spring the Monopoly board of Rockland switches up a little, gaining and losing a few businesses along the way. This was a big year for restaurants, hotels and art galleries as we watch this once rough and tumble town continue to evolve into a hot spot. Here's what happened over the fall and winter— what's open, what's closed, what's new.

    Restaurant news

    Brown Bag...Home Kitchen Cafe, Home Sweet Home, Close to Home

    This past fall, it was a bit of a shock to learn that local favorite lunch spot The Brown Bag was going out of business after 28 years, but luckily, Home Kitchen Café owners James Hatch and Susan Schiro took over the space, planning to expand their restaurant's popular brand with three separate businesses under one roof. Moving their ice cream parlor from behind Home Kitchen Café into the left side of the Main Street building and leaving the right side a bakery and calling it Home Sweet Home, they turned the middle section into a burrito and sandwich shop called Close To Home with "made to-order homemade subs similar to a North End Boston Italian style." Read our story about it here.

    Comida Restaurant...Broken Egg

    Despite a still active website and Facebook page, Comida Restaurant, the Latin-infused restaurant, which had moved from Camden to Rockland in 2015, experimented with a new business model of sharing space with food truck 'Wich Please, before announcing its permanent closure over the winter. Broken Egg, a gourmet breakfast and brunch spot took its place, just recently opening for the summer season. See our recent story here.

    The Oyster Bar...The Pearl

    The Oyster Bar at the Pearl quietly closed over the winter, making room for a longtime fixture of the food scene, Larry Reed, to take over as the new owner. Now what the locals are calling The "New" Pearl, this iconic restaurant on the pier has reopened with a new primarily seafood menu, new staff and new energy. See our recent story.

    Sunfire Mexican Grill... Sammy’s Deluxe

    And just before the summer season, Sunfire Mexican Grill announced on Facebook that after 14 years in the business, they are retiring and offering the business up for sale. At this writing, Sam Richman, who previously has hosted pop-up Mexican dinners as salty Soup Kitchen, has announced he has taken over the space and will be calling his new restaurant Sammy's Deluxe, described as "high-brow/low-brow, thoughtful, not fussy, delicious, proud, seasonal food—the best of Maine, New England, and Americana."

    Business news

    Hops & Chops

    Hops & Chops, a full-service butcher shop and beer/wine shop at 77 Park Street opened in mid-May in the location formerly owned by Blackboard Deli. With an emphasis on selling Maine craft brews and wine, owner Dale Dare also plans to offer homemade prepared meals to go, which is sure to be a hit with tourists and locals alike. See our story here.

    Gelato Rosse, Ice Blossoms

    Coming up in early June, two more small businesses dedicated to icy treats will be opening. Gelato Rose (497 Main St.) owned by Annie Higbee and her daughter Cecile Bizet Burbank will open Rockland's second gelato shop. They will share space with Robert Arena who will be opening an Italian ice shop called Ice Blossoms.

    Read about what's new in Rockland and in Belfast:

    Welcome back to the Camden-Rockport area, Snow Birds 2016

    Welcome back to Belfast, Snow Bats 2016

    Thorndike Creamery...Curator

    Rockland lost one of its best pizza places when Thorndike Creamery decided to close their doors in December after being in business for eight years. See that story here. In its place, Benjamin Dorr and Emily Seymour opened Curator in mid-May, a consignment and thrift store for men, which is something the Midcoast has needed for a very long time.

    The Reading Corner...Loyal Biscuit

    Another blow to the literary community took place when The Reading Corner, an independent bookstore and a fixture on Maine Street since 1975, closed permanently in January, citing the huge changes in the past 10 years in publishing and bookselling. By April, Rockland residents Heidi V. Neal and Joel C. Neal, owners of Loyal Biscuit Co., purchased the building, expanded The Loyal Biscuit, a dog and cat pet supply boutique into that space.

    Lodging news

    250 Main

    After a lengthy construction period over last summer and this winter, the boutique hotel called 250 Main built by Lyman Morse, opened in May. Positioned directly across the harbor, the five floors with a rooftop space built for events, will have prime views of the Maine Lobster Festival, the Maine Boats and Harbor Show and the Blues Festival. See our story here.

    Navigator Inn...Rockland Harbor Hotel

    Another hotel on track to be completed by Memorial Day is the Rockland Harbor Hotel, formerly the Navigator Inn. Locals who frequented "the Gator" probably won't be happy about losing their favorite watering hole, but tourists will most likely dig its hip and cool facelift.

    Art Scene news

    Center for Maine Contemporary Art

    Center for Maine Contemporary Art is still steadily working to wrap up the finishing touches on its $2.5 million project — an 8,600-square-foot art center with a 2,200-square-foot, glass-enclosed courtyard on Winter Street. The grand opening is set for June 26. See more here.

    Dowling Walsh Art Gallery

    Dowling Walsh art gallery announced over the winter a proposal to expand their business and build a five-story $3 million building also on Winter Street in the back of their parking lot. They thought the timing would be ideal as Winter Street still remains under construction with the new CMCA complex that is currently being built.

    The Art Loft

    Art Loft, a new business started by two former Maine Media Workshop grads, Kathryn Matlack and Paula Apro, located in the back of the Thorndike Building, opened just in time for the season's first Art Walk. Offering drop-in art and marketing drop-in classes and workshops, the dup aims to make art more accessible to the average person. See our story here.

    If we've missed any business updates, comings and goings, expansions and the like, shoot us an email with the subject line "Add to Rockland story" and we'll give it a look.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at