BANGOR, Maine — Bangor area locals likely know the bakery on State Street well. Enter the double doors, and you are greeted by cases of decadent eclairs, cream horns, and an assortment of cheesecakes. Move to your left, and there's a counter to order savory foods, like pizza, salads, and classic sandwiches.
The food is addicting, but Frank's Bake Shop is known for much more than its dishes. The shop has been in the Soucy family for 75 years after Frank Soucy opened it in 1945. Since then, it's been passed down through the generations and is now owned by Frank's great-grandson, Brett.
For staff members at Frank's, 2020 was supposed to be a year dedicated to celebrating their 75th anniversary. Instead, they've been tested, as the coronavirus pandemic first swept across American television screens and then moved into Maine.
"It was really kind of hard to know what the right thing to do was," Brett told NEWS CENTER Maine about the time he spent trying to determine how to protect the community and his family's business. "The right thing to do kept changing every day."
Ultimately, Brett made the tough decision back in March to close for about six weeks. He says making that call was challenging, especially knowing how many people rely on their service.
"It certainly was a hit to the business, for sure," Brett explained. "I mean, I don't think my dad or family even remember ever being shut down longer than a weekend -- so to do it for a period of five weeks, it's really unheard of here."
It's why he and his staff members were excited to reopen open their doors to eager patrons on Wednesday, May 6. For employees, that period of unemployment definitely wasn't easy, but they are grateful to have jobs again in a time when many Mainers do not.
"I'm so happy that I do have my position here and (am) glad to be back," Alyssa Hines, a cashier at Frank's said excitedly. "(I) wouldn't change it for anything."
For manager Julie Bartlett, there was always hope that they would get back up and running again soon, even during the tough times.
"Frank's has always been here," Bartlett expressed. "I don't know if that's what I had to keep saying to myself to believe that we're going to be okay."
RELATED: "I just wasn't going to let my heart and soul fail." Small business maintains a vision to survive amid COVID-19
RELATED: Augusta coffee shop, local businesses partner up to stay afloat during coronavirus, COVID-19
There are changes being implemented at the shop now, though, to keep everyone safe. Staff members are asking that everyone inside (including customers and employees) wear a mask. Additionally, only five customers are allowed inside at a time.
For people who do not have a mask, Frank's is also offering curbside pick-up and orders at the door. Brett says they are cleaning consistently and are using specific doors for entering and exiting.
It's all being done in an effort to keep serving their community while protecting the patrons they've come to know and love.
"Our regulars come in, and they are like our second family," Hines emphasized. "They come in, and they expect everything to be as it is, and it is always. For 75 years, it has always been this way, and they appreciate that."
Brett has faith that it will continue to be that way, too, as they work through this pandemic together.
"The truth is, at some point, this will be a memory," Brett said. "We're all going to sit around a table again, enjoy a cup of coffee together. There will be customers in here at the table, and they'll be talking about, 'Remember in 2020, when there was pandemic?'"
At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus.