Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Kelly Girard’s eighth-grade language arts classes at Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta during the students’ investigative journalism unit. The presentations were fun (at least for me), The Lincoln County News later published some of the students’ work, and the whole experience was truly one of the highlights of my year.
After the success of the engagement last year, we here at The Lincoln County News thought it would once again be fun to publish some of the articles the students wrote for the public to read. Beyond some small edits to bring the articles into Associated Press-style, the articles are largely untouched to preserve the voice of the young journalists. The articles are fantastic, and cover a wide range of topics in our community.
The students also had the opportunity to visit The Lincoln County News during the printing of the newspaper and speak with LCN Editor J.W. Oliver and Publisher Chris Roberts. Seeing the students’ faces when the press started running at top speed was both hilarious and heartwarming.
I want to give a huge thank you to Girard for continuing this project as well as to her eighth-grade students for being such an amazing group of kids.
Also, if there are any other teachers out there who would like to have a reporter come speak to your class, please give us a call at 563-3171 and we’ll do our best to accommodate the request.
Local members of Best Thai explain what it’s like to own a restaurant in Damariscotta
By True Leadbetter
Best Thai is a restaurant located at 74 Main St., downtown Damariscotta, Maine. The restaurant is open Tuesdays-Saturdays, serving lunch from noon-3 p.m. and dinner from 4-8:30 p.m. The restaurant seats up to 40 people in a relaxed environment, provides take-out service, and is a favorite to many local residents.
Jib, a local member of the family that owns Best Thai, tells her story on how the restaurant came to be. Kowa, Jib’s father, a hard-working man, began his career working with family in the restaurant business in Thailand. He eventually moved to Maine and worked very long hours in small Thai restaurants in Portland.
Kowa and Jib decided to go into business together and open their own Thai restaurant. They did not want to compete with other busy restaurants in the Portland area so they decided to locate their restaurant in Damariscotta. They found a good downtown location and soon their restaurant was up and open for business. Best Thai has now been open for seven years, ever since May 2011.
Jib’s brother, Hanjitsuwan, owns a second Best Thai restaurant located in Bath, Maine. This Bath restaurant is referred to as Best Thai II. Both restaurants use traditional and family recipes on their menus. They strive to serve authentic Thai flavors, an abundance of fresh produce, and locally sourced meat and poultry. For example, tamarind, a pod-like fruit, is a traditional Thai ingredient with a sour-sweet flavor and can also be used to make sweet syrup to flavor soft drinks.
Of the two restaurants, Damariscotta is the busiest location. The busiest time of year for the Damariscotta Best Thai is summer because of all the returning seasonal residents and visiting tourists.
Best Thai is open all seasons, but once every year Jib and her family close the restaurant for one month and go home to vacation in Thailand and spend time with family.
Located right next to Best Thai is O-Cha. Hanjitsuwan, Jib’s brother, who owns Best Thai II, also owns O-Cha. O-Cha was up and running in the springtime of 2017. O-Cha is a bar and grill that serves a Thai-inspired menu.
“My favorite part about having this restaurant is being able to talk to the customers. But the hardest part of the job is dealing with the occasional difficult customers and orders,” Jib said.
When first opening the restaurant, one of the most challenging aspects Jib encountered was learning how to run the business and to become accustomed to the American style of customer service.
Amy, a staff member of Best Thai, said there are deliveries once a week with special Thai ingredients. Fresh produce is shopped locally from Hannaford Supermarket. Most of Jib’s customers love and appreciate the food and friendly service at Best Thai; very few customers complain. Jib said that she sees a lot of the same customers at least once a week.
Amy loves working at Best Thai, and her favorite part of the job is that “they treat me like family,” Amy says.
Co-working spaces bring new opportunities to young professionals
By Eden Butler
Financiers, graphic designers, technologists, software engineers, and app designers are all professions commonly associated with big cities. In co-working spaces there are people with very different professions working alongside each other in jobs not normally associated with life in small-town Maine. Midcoast CoWork, located in the middle of downtown Damariscotta, overlooking the river, at 72 Courtyard St., Ste. 4, is one such space where professionals work together separately.
According to its website, Midcoast CoWork is “a group of people who work for different companies and organizations, sharing experiences and space on the coast of Maine. Our members work for universities, nonprofits, banks, and tech companies both large and small. We have a strong sense of community and cooperation, and are always happy to welcome new people.”
After Buzz Maine, a co-working space and cafe on Main Street in Damariscotta, closed earlier this year, many local remote workers were left without a space to work. When asked how important he thought Midcoast CoWork is to the community in providing a place where anyone is able to work remotely, Midcoast CoWork member Jesse Butler said, “That’s a great question. That’s actually the main reason that we all got together and started our own thing.”
“I think the majority of us could have gone back to the way we were doing things before, which is working for our respective companies remotely in home offices; however, we really stopped and thought about that and said, you know, this little community that we built is really important. It is not only important for us, the 15 or 16 people involved in MCW, it’s also really important to area,” Butler said.
According to globalworkplaceanalytics.com, 80 percent of employees view working remotely as a “job perk” and one-third of polled workers would choose to work from home over a salary raise.
Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 5.2 percent of American workers worked from home in 2017. That works out to be roughly 8 million people. With statistics like these, working from home will become increasingly popular with both workers and employers alike. For workers who don’t have or want a home office, a co-working space might be the ideal solution.
Co-working spaces are also helpful for tourists visiting the area who may need to spend some of their vacation time working. Co-working spaces such as Midcoast CoWork could provide a temporary working environment on a drop-in basis, Butler said.
“We may move to a bigger space in the near future to accommodate more members. Interest has been strong both locally and also with folks from out of the area looking for a drop-in work space,” Butler said.
The businesses of Elm Street Plaza
By Aiden Jacobs
The Elm Street Plaza is situated at the junction of Theater Street and Elm Street and is a hotspot for Maine businesses. The Wash & Fold Laundromat, Hair… We Are!, The Lady’s Room, and LOL Jokes and Novelties are all situated here, but do people know?
Hair… We Are! and the laundromat were both unavailable for interviews to talk about their stores. Hair…We Are! is owned by Ivette Segovia and is known for its fast and cheap haircuts. The laundromat is owned by Colby & Gale Inc. It has 26 coin-operated washers and 23 coin-operated dryers.
Inside LOL Jokes and Novelties, Geoff Groleau greets customers. The walls are covered with practical jokes and funny gags such as shock pens, fart machines, and even crystals. In the back, a CD player plays warming music.
“I’ve always wanted to be in Damariscotta,” Groleau said. “We love the people from this area.” He has also owned businesses in Bath and Wiscasset, but something about Damariscotta has always appealed to him.
Groleau also wanted to revive the joke shop culture: “People haven’t seen joke shops in years, so when they come in they absolutely adore it.”
Groleau has a love of jokes and loves sharing that with his customers. “I’m just goofy!” he said.
Groleau loves watching people in his store. “They just have so much enjoyment. It’s awesome,” he said.
Groleau thinks his store has made a difference in Damariscotta. “I always make a difference,” he said. “I’m the coolest cat in the litter box.”
Most of the jokes in his store still have the vintage artwork from when they were produced in the ’70s and ’80s. “They go nuts!” he said.
Groleau hopes he can bring joy and jokes into this community.
Next to LOL Jokes and Novelties is The Lady’s Room, a 14-year-old store that strives to outfit women with the newest and nicest clothing around. Inside, the place is packed with not only clothes but also jewelry, scarves, and even wool socks. There is holiday music playing and the warm lighting gives it the effect of a homey place.
“It was a good opportunity for my business,” said Pam Olson, the owner of The Lady’s Room.
Olson also believes she’s doing a service to the community. “People appreciate the fact they I’m helping them find great clothes at a price they can afford,” she said.
Olson said that she has many repeat customers; almost everyone that comes once will come again. Even though she has a sign on Main Street, she would love more people to come to not just her shop but all of the shops in the Elm Street Plaza.
So come on down to the Elm Street Plaza and support local businesses. Because down at the Elm Street Plaza they’re all family and they want you to be a part of it, too.
Plastic bag ban takes effect in Damariscotta
By Liam Card
On Dec. 13, the town of Damariscotta implemented a ban on the use of single-use carry-out plastic bags. This ban was based on a vote by the citizens of Damariscotta in the Nov. 6 election. The results were 602-509 in favor of the proposal. The goal of this ban is to help protect marine habitat and reduce the amount of plastic in landfills.
In a Dec. 11 survey conducted at Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students were asked about their views of the newly enacted plastic bag ban in Damariscotta. Twenty-seven students submitted responses.
In one question, the students were asked how they think businesses are preparing for this ban. One student said, “I know that many local businesses are switching to paper bags. For instance, Renys already gives customers a choice of paper or plastic … I have seen a few new businesses that make and sell reusable cloth bags, too.”
Students were also asked about their household use of reusable bags, and 100 percent of the respondents indicated that their households own reusable bags. In addition, 92 percent indicated that their households reuse plastic bags. Given these responses, it is clear that the majority of households have already implemented their individual recycling efforts, with 92 percent of students supporting the ban and 89 percent indicating that it should have been implemented sooner.
Students were asked how they thought this plastic bag ban is going to affect their household. The majority indicated that it will not affect their household at all, because they are already using reusable bags.
A common theme throughout this survey is that people in Damariscotta already own and use reusable bags. In addition, the people who were polled expressed support for the ban, and said that their households would not be inconvenienced as a result of the ban.
Will Damariscotta become a more chain-filled town in the following decades?
By Kaylin Lizotte
Recently, the town of Damariscotta has been gaining more chain businesses, such as the new additions of Sherwin Williams and Dollar General last year.
Adding chain stores instead of local stores can weaken the local economy. Local stores recycle a larger portion of their sales back into the local economy, whereas chain companies bring their money back to their corporate headquarters. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the local retailers donate more on average to local charities and community organizations than the chains do.
Also, more chains now could mean a town full of them in the next decade or two. Patrick Lizotte, who grew up near the town of Topsham, said that the town was not always as full of chains as it is today.
“Back in the ’90s, Topsham consisted of mostly small local businesses, with the biggest chain businesses being Shop ’n’ Save, Bradley’s, and McDonald’s. Since then, the number of chains has probably tripled,” Lizotte said.
He described how Topsham evolved so that it has become what Brunswick was when he was a kid, a town that has grown to be filled with chains. He also talked about how the town has multiple lanes of traffic around the Topsham Fair Mall, which is there because many people shop at the chain retails.
Replies to a survey sent out to students in the eighth grade of Great Salt Bay Community School show that about 71.5 percent (5 out of 7 respondents) agree that Damariscotta will become a chain-filled town in the next couple decades. The question of whether Damariscotta should keep its originality or become a chain-filled town resulted in the same percentage of 71.5 percent, with the majority saying that it should keep its originality of many local businesses.
Lilly Taylor, an eighth-grader at GSB, shared her opinion on the town of Damariscotta: “I think that there should be a happy medium. We should have another town nearby with larger businesses, but Damariscotta should keep its small businesses because we have tourists that visit to be by the water, and small businesses make money off tourists buying their things.”
It’s no doubt that Maine is well-known for its collection of tourists during the summer and autumn foliage, and in 2016 tourists spent just under $6 billion, supporting nearly 106,000 jobs. According to the Department of Development Studies, selling souvenirs has been repeatedly considered an effective way for communities to take economic advantage from tourism. There are a handful of local businesses in Damariscotta that sell souvenirs, such as Puffin’s Nest, Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop, Aboca Beads, and many more.
Maggie Kastelein, another eighth-grader at GSB, said that chains aren’t entirely the end of small communities. “I know that a lot of people shop at these big businesses, and also shop at local businesses. I think it’s just about maintaining a balance, which I think has been achieved,” Kastelein said.
The town of Damariscotta is a very unique and special town in Maine, and it’s growing as the years go on. Eventually, the town will inevitably gain more chains. Damariscotta needs to find its balance between local businesses and chains and work together to please citizens and tourists, or else the town will become the next Brunswick.
Pumpkinfest: what about the businesses?
By Margaret Kastelein
For two business owners, one from Damariscotta, one from Edgecomb, Pumpkinfest, an event in the town of Damariscotta that celebrates pumpkins and all things fall, is a creative time to interact with people. While they are operating their stores, making sure it doesn’t get too chaotic, they find it nice to see families and people from out of state, as well as locals, casually browsing.
“It’s interesting because most of the people you see are smiling and upbeat, and interact and talk to you, which is very different from the events our store in Portland hosts, like Old Port Festival.” said Olive Jones, of Se Vende Imports, who has stores in Damariscotta and Portland. Pumpkinfest is also viewed as a creative opportunity.
“Pumpkinfest to me is the most fun event there is. I love thinking of ideas for the event and gathering the materials beforehand … It’s just a really great opportunity to be creative,” said Ronna Lugosch, owner of Peapod Jewelry, which is located in Edgecomb. Lugosch said that the most enjoyable day is the day when they are constructing a giant pumpkin that is bought by the business to decorate. She has many interactions as people come through.
Pumpkinfest is also a business/promotional opportunity. Both business owners think that it is a opportunity to highlight their business, although they do it differently. Lugosch views sponsoring the pumpkin like buying real estate that will highlight her store. For her pumpkin, she usually takes more of an advertisement-like approach, often showing of a new piece of jewelry, or with a peapod/pea theme.
Jones, however, because she is located in Damariscotta, doesn’t have the same approach, and doesn’t advertise except for in the newspaper. Instead, the large flow of people requires her to have two people on the job and to come in early to ensure they get parking.
Single-use plastics in restaurants
By Ava Nery
Pollution has become a well-known issue in our current time. The plastics we use directly affect us and our communities in many ways. More establishments and restaurants have started to stop using or buying products that harm our environment, such as straws.
King Eider’s Pub, a local restaurant in Damariscotta, is currently using plastic alternatives in their restaurant.
“We changed over our restaurant to using recyclable materials.” said Jed Weiss, an owner of King Eider’s Pub. “We started using corn-based biodegradable straws instead of plastic ones, paper to-go bags instead of plastic ones.”
Restaurants across the country are exchanging their plastics for other alternatives. Restaurants in Maine have especially taken a stand to eliminate their use of plastics. The Black Point Inn in Scarborough has ditched plastic straws. Blue Mermaid in Kittery banned them three months ago and now serves paper or compostable alternatives only upon request.
A difficulty of switching to these alternatives is said to be that “some are more expensive. Plus, a few years ago, there were no buyable alternatives to the plastics that we used,” Weiss said. Some things that King Eider’s has not found an alternative to are their plastic children’s cups that help prevent spills with a tightly sealed plastic lid.
Do the plastics used in Damariscotta directly affect the community? The answer is yes! The town of Damariscotta is known for fishing and other sea-related jobs such as lobstering. The town name even translates to “an abundance of alewives” or “river of little fish.”
“Our town is very tied to the sea, so plastic directly affects us,” Weiss said.
The plastics that get into the ocean can greatly affect marine creatures that are fished for and consumed in the town of Damariscotta, as well as other things that the town gets from the water.
When restaurants like King Eider’s switch to nonplastic alternatives, they are helping to keep the local waters clean, as well as the rest of the town.
Many restaurants in Damariscotta still use single-use plastics. “It’s important to be socially conscious in business,” Weiss said. With such positive steps being taken toward helping the environment, maybe King Eider’s has influenced other restaurants, or will in the future, to follow in its path to make the world and the town of Damariscotta a cleaner, safer place.
Villages of Light brings Christmas spirit into the holidays
By Brynna Nelson
An event called Villages of Light has now been held two years in a row in November, in the towns of Damariscotta and Newcastle. In previous years, there have been smaller events in the towns, including Santa Claus and crafts/cartoons at the Skidompha Public Library. Last year, the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Damariscotta-Newcastle, and other groups of people such as the Twin Villages Alliance, got together to make an even larger Christmas event.
“We wanted to add more Christmas spirit in Damariscotta and Newcastle.” said Maia Zewert, a member of the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce. Since the Pumpkinfest is a major tradition in the town of Damariscotta, the groups decided it would be fun to have an event similar to this, but for the Christmas season.
“It gives people a reason to come and celebrate together and build relationships,” said Tori DeLisle, an employee in the development office at Skidompha Library.
“We have people from a bunch of different organizations, and for that reason there is a larger collection of people … When that happens, where it’s a collaboration of people who are all working toward the same goal, it really renews your spirit,” said Zewert.
Since it is only the second year of hosting this event, there are still areas for improvement, but most issues have been worked out since last year. “Most of the feedback we have heard has been very positive,” said Zewert.
One problem in the preparation for the festival is the deployment of Christmas trees. From experience last year, they better communicated with restaurants and businesses and received more trees for the “tiny tree” deployment.
Villages of Light attracts all age groups with opportunities to do something enjoyable. “We kind of hit every generation in the events that we plan for that specific day, the more mature audience liking the trees … I think it really fits across everybody,” said Terri Herald, a member of the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce.
There were many opportunities for kids to have the best of Christmas. One highlight of the Villages of Light was the parade. “The parade … was after sunset, so a bunch of businesses and organizations, families, and fire trucks all put Christmas lights on their vehicles.” Zewert said. The event consisted of many smaller activities, such as getting to meet Santa Claus and giving him a special wish and a free holiday movie.
Skidompha Library, in downtown Damariscotta, offered to hold Christmas cartoons and crafts for all the kids before the parade. They also offered a free showing of “The Muppet Christmas Carol.”
This Christmas season, Villages of Light successfully brought a sense of community and spirit into the holidays.
& Cafe replaced
By Madison Phelps
On Aug. 23, & Cafe, next to Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop, located at 158 Main St. in Damariscotta, closed its doors. The cafe had too few employees and closed to find an owner that would run it as an independently owned business.
While a lease notice was put up, the town waited expectantly for a reopening, as there were no other coffee shops around. A few buildings up the street, Barn Door Baking Co. owners Annie Leck and Crystal Berg saw the opening and were interested in opening a cafe of their own.
“We had a small bakery here in Damariscotta for two years and had a lot of demands for baked goods specifically,” said Leck.
People were having difficulty reaching their location since they were behind another business. “When the space came up for lease … we immediately thought it was the perfect fit for us and it was the perfect time for everything to grow,” she said.
Once Leck and Berg had bought the space, it was time to transform it.
“It was difficult because we had a short amount of time and we had a small amount of resources,” Leck said.
They now have two spaces up and running, as they decided to keep their original location open. Though Barn Door Baking is technically still running, the cafe definitely gets the most business between the two, based on better location and space for what they do.
Berg and Leck greatly enjoy owning the café, and though now they have more customers and a higher workload, between the two of them it surely makes it easier.
Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop, which is owned by Jeff Curtis, is connected to Barn Door Baking Cafe. When Leck was asked what she thought of working alongside the book shop, she said that she really enjoyed the experience and that it’s a really great factor of having the cafe located there.
The Barn Door Baking Cafe is now currently open, with owners Leck and Berg very happy.
Should the GSB cafeteria have more cultural food options?
By Nathalie Paulino
The population of Lincoln County is growing and is also becoming a more culturally diverse community. Therefore the question can be asked, why not have more diverse foods in the school cafeterias?
At Lincoln Academy, the students come from many different backgrounds, and the school tries respecting their cultural differences by making foods that the students are familiar with. This could also be done at Great Salt Bay Community School, an elementary and middle school. The cons of this would be the amount of money put into the food itself. The lunch persons could also have minimal to no experience in the preparation of the meal, which would also be a problem.
While the school district is becoming more diverse, it’s still very much influenced by American culture. Having more cultural foods could be good representation and help GSB learn more about different backgrounds through food. But also, doing this could, again, be very expensive, and what if the children don’t eat it? The food could go to waste.
A recent survey was sent out to the eighth-graders of GSB, asking their thoughts on the subject. Out of 30 students, about 76 percent were open to the idea of having more cultural foods and 24 percent were against it. For the students who answered no, their reasoning was that cultural foods just aren’t good and that it would make lunch prices go way up. The students who said yes had very different opinions, saying that it would be a nice change and they wanted to have more variety.
A teacher at Lincoln Academy, Ida Chapman, believes that “students should have food that they feel comfortable and happy with, as it makes for a more successful educational experience if they are well-nourished.”
A student at GSB, Madison Phelps, said, “I think that we should have more cultural foods. It’s good to have a variety of foods, and I think that it could give people more options.”
Another student disagreed and said that not a lot of people would eat them and they would go to waste, like the salad bar.
A different survey question showed that out of 30 kids, 77 percent of eighth-graders would eat school lunch more often if there was more cultural food served.
Chapman said, “Pick-and-go could also be an option, offering culturally diverse foods for those that want them and the old standbys, cold sandwiches, etc., for those who don’t.”
Having more cultural foods in our schools could benefit the diverse school population as well as bring students outside of their comfort zone and expose them to new foods and cultures they are not familiar with.
The food manager at GSB was not heard back from, but with further research and discussion, GSB could be on its way to becoming a more culturally inclusive school.
Chewonki hosts craft fair
By Ada Tholen
At 1 p.m. on Dec. 11, people flocked to Chewonki, located in Wiscasset, to attend the annual holiday craft fair.
The fair was originally created to provide an opportunity for Maine Coast Semester students to buy gifts before returning to their families for vacation. Over the past 10 years, it has become a place for anyone to buy gifts, and has become very popular over the years.
The things sold at the fair often cannot be found in normal stores and there is a wide variety of gifts to choose from, all in one place.
Anna Hunt, director of school programs and program support, is in charge of organizing the whole craft fair along with a few helpers.
This year, for the first time, Chewonki held an online auction in which crafters donated items, with the goal of increasing excitement and awareness of the craft fair. The items were bid on over the course of a few weeks and finally sold to the highest bidder on the day of the craft fair.
Thirty-one vendors sold items at the craft fair this year and about half of them were elementary school students at Chewonki. This year, the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade students incorporated the craft fair into their studies of economics and ecosystems.
“It’s an interesting way to tie the subjects together and have students participate in an experiential and hands-on project,” said Kat Cassidy, lead teacher of the elementary school.
This fall, the students learned about economic concepts and gained a variety of crafting skills during art classes. Cassidy and co-teacher Emily Bell-Hoerth asked students to create a business proposal and prototype of the project they hoped to make before starting a small business to make products to sell during the craft fair. Along the way, they took field trips to stores to look for materials for the businesses and a trip to the Common Ground Fair in Unity to interview vendors there and get an idea of what to make.
There were 13 students, each working on a different project. This meant a lot of separate art lessons to teach students how to make the things that they needed for the fair.
“It was a lot of work for the teachers, but it was worth it,” said Cassidy. She went on to say that she will definitely add it into her curriculum again.
The businesses that students created ranged from Purrrrr, which sold silkscreened catnip pouches and printed patches to sew onto clothing, to Llama Tale, which sold needle-felted llamas with personalities and accessories included.
A business called Galloping Sheep Flags sold flags with needle-felted animals on them. Another business, called Speedy Turtle, sold embroidered patches and flags. And these were just a few of the many creative small businesses that students ran at the fair. Most of the students sold out of their products well before the fair ended at 5 p.m.
The products that other participants were selling also varied greatly. The only guidelines are that the gift must be handmade and unique. This means that there are a wide variety of things sold at the craft fair. One vendor sold handcrafted wooden canoe paddles, while another sold delicate origami earrings and ornaments. Knitted gifts such as hats or mittens were popular as well as carved wooden utensils, such as spoons.
Overall, the holiday craft fair was a huge success this year, as was the new online auction.