KITTERY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A community is rallying for a local business owner and his employees, who were laid off after a freak incident.
People in Kittery, and throughout the Seacoast area, have been working to try to make the employees of Carl’s Meat Market whole.
Seventeen of them were suddenly laid off after the shop’s owner received a phone call in the middle of the night. That owner, Jim Spencer, is the kind of guy who would always help others, whether it was sponsoring a youth sports team or donating to local charities.
The phone call he received that night hit him hard.
No one could have predicted, or prevented, what happened to Carl’s Meat Market in Kittery. An aging town sewer pipe gave way, sending raw sewage up through the drains, into the shop. Everything inside, the meats, the breads, the beverages, had to go.
“The repairs, lost products, lost wages for employees, the renovations. We’re $400,000 to $500,000 right now,” said owner Jim Spencer.
Then, after shutting down his business came the crushing news from his insurance company. His large commercial policy did not include coverage for sewer drain back-ups.
“Our insurance company just basically walked away, didn’t do anything,” he said.
The news spread quickly and caught the attention of people in town.
Mary Carter and Donna Stobbs quickly arranged a fundraising dinner at the First Congregational Church of Kittery Point. When they approached Jim Spencer, he told them don’t do it for me, do it for my employees.
“He was taken aback a bit. He didn’t know why we wanted to do this for him. Why did we want to do a dinner for him? And we explained that he had done so much for this community," said Stobbs.
Others were quick to follow. Restaurant owners throughout the area donated gift certificates for an auction. The event was held Tuesday at When Pig’s Fly Pizzeria, with 10 percent of all the restaurant's profits that day going to Carl’s employees.
“Whether it’s the restaurant community, the people themselves, everyone is pretty genuine. Doesn’t matter where you stand on certain things, when it comes to your neighbor, everyone takes care of each other,” said Rob Martin, the restaurant's executive chef.
So far, more than $18,000 has been raised for the laid off workers. Jim Spencer was more than pleased to distribute about half of that to them this week. In the face of his own devastating loss, he has found a renewed faith in the community where he works and lives.
“It really gives us a huge appreciation of not just Kittery, but Eliot, York, Portsmouth. The whole community. It’s not just one town, it’s a community,” he said.
Spencer expects his business to be shut down a total of eight weeks. Renovations are on target for a re-opening date of March 28, when he plans to welcome all his employees back to work.
In the meantime, Spencer says the town has been very helpful. He says officials are doing all they can, working with their insurance company, to help with the cost of getting Carl’s back open.