With Sara Mitchell’s generous support, Jennifer Keegan’s longtime dream of running her own market, specializing in homemade baked goods and provisions, became a reality.
On June 12, Keegan and her family, of Damariscotta, opened Kneaded Provisions at the former Island Grocery market on Rutherford Island in South Bristol.
“I’m still pinching myself to make sure this is real,” Keegan said. “It feels like the greatest gift that anyone could receive.”
Years ago, Keegan saw the listing for the former Island Grocery market in the newspaper, and reached out to her friend Mitchell, a resident of Christmas Cove. Mitchell had taught Keegan’s eldest daughter, Emily, several years prior, and their families’ shared interests in the local boat industry solidified their friendship.
“We met over coffee to discuss the chances of me reopening the market for year-round business,” Keegan said. “At the time, we weren’t able to make it work.”
This past Thanksgiving, Mitchell sent Keegan an unexpected text message in which she asked if Keegan would run the former Island Grocery market in the summertime if Mitchell were to buy it. Keegan immediately agreed to it.
“It was something Sara wanted to do to bring the community back together, after the long and hard months of the pandemic,” Keegan said.
“The building and its interior was left in too nice of shape to not reopen it,” Mitchell said.
“It’s also a gift for me to share my love for baking and cooking with the community,” Keegan added.
While working as a stay-at-home mom Keegan discovered her passion for baking. Over the years, she has created elaborate cakes for her children’s birthdays and friends’ events, including Mitchell’s wedding cake.
“Baking has been my creative outlet, and I’ve always imagined running my own bakery or shop,” Keegan said.
At the end of last summer, Keegan received another unexpected opportunity to teach first and second grade at the Center for Teaching and Learning school in Edgecomb.
During the 15 years that her four children attended CTL, Keegan had been an assistant teacher and integral part of the school community.
“This past year has been a real gift,” Keegan said. “Who gets the opportunity to receive their two dream jobs in one year?”
Mitchell closed the deal on the store at the end of February. The two started brainstorming business names, interior and exterior design, and products.
“We both really want the market to be a welcoming spot where people and families can enjoy food and each other’s company,” Mitchell said.
By the beginning of May, Mitchell and Keegan started working in earnest to get the market ready for a June opening.
Keegan’s four children — Emily, Tristam, Aidan, and Katie — and her younger sister, Kara Keegan, joined in the entire process of reopening the store, from brainstorming names and purchasing an LLC to wiping down the shelves, cleaning the floors, and ordering and stocking items.
Mitchell ordered furniture, and hired Ken Lincoln and his carpentry crew to replace the deck and other exterior fixtures.
“It’s been really neat to watch Emily, who I taught so many years ago, graduate from college and help run the business,” Mitchell said.
Emily will be going for her master’s degree in wine and beverage management at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif. at the end of the summer, and has been ordering a selection of wines through SoPo Wine, a wholesale distributor of wine and beer based in South Portland. Emily will also be preparing pastries, baked goods, and takeout meals with Keegan.
Kara Keegan will handle the managerial duties of running the market, such as ordering and stocking products, managing inventory, and providing customer service.
Katie will handle the register and greet customers; Tristam will help with prep work in the kitchen, and Aidan will handle upkeep of the store, and anything in between.
“It’s really special to work alongside my family and close friends on this project,” Keegan said.
For now they will be selling Emily’s homemade ham and cheese and original croissants and pain au chocolat, and Keegan’s homemade scones, cookies, muffins, cupcakes, cakes, crumbles, tarts, and seasonal pies.
Keegan intends to work with as many local food producers as possible this summer. So far, she will be selling cheeses from Lakin’s Gorges Cheese, of Waldoboro, and beer from Sasanoa Brewing in Westport Island.
Emily will serve coffee and espresso drinks using Trax Coffee, micro-batch artisan coffee, roasted in Beacon, N.Y.
As the summer picks up, take-home meals and prepared dishes will be added to the menu.
“Even with Harborside and Osier’s up the road, there are plenty of people and families on the island in the summertime who want another spot to enjoy food and purchase take home meals,” Mitchell said.
To weave the community together, Keegan and Mitchell encourage local artists and artisans to display and sell their artwork at the store. So far, Susan Bartlett Rice, of Walpole, will sell a selection of her oil paintings, and Carol Hoagland, of South Bristol, will sell a selection of her handmade canvas and leather bags.
“We really want Kneaded Provisions to capture the essence of the South Bristol community: its rich culture and talented people,” Keegan said.
Keegan plans to have a grand opening celebration on the Fourth of July. She will extend business hours as the summer progresses.
Keegan said she would like to try to keep the store open year-round, with her sister stepping in to run the store while she teaches. She will see how the summer goes, but in the meantime plans to stay open until Columbus Day.
Kneaded Provisions is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Starting at the end of June, the business will be open daily.