KITTERY POINT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — One year ago, the town of Kittery Point lost its most significant landmark to fire.
Frisbee's Market was actually the oldest market of its kind in the country. It stood for well over a century, and represented not just the hub of business, but a comfortable place where community members could gather. When it went up in flames in the summer of 2016, the town felt the loss deeply.
"I was out on the water and people were coming up," said Dick Draper. "It was all over the radio, we could see the smoke."
Draper remembers the day Frisbee went up in flames. He's been lobstering the waters off Pepperill Cove the past two decades. "It was not good," he said. "It was the hub of everything here. Of course we all knew the family, grew up together. Yeah, it's been a rough few years."
Henry Ares, who is now 49, first started working at Cap'n Simeon's Galley restaurant behind Frisbee's when he was in high school. He and his wife Eides are both chefs and own AJ's Wood Grill Pizza in Kittery Foreside. Soon, they will be running restaurant number two in the space where Frisbee's stood for over a century.
The sound of hammers, electric saws and drills echo off the water as we walk through the demolition inside the former Cap'n Simeon's.
The former restaurant is part of a waterfront restoration and renovation called the Pepperrell Cove project. Dark wood paneling, carpeting and a traditional bar running the length of the second floor are being replaced by light paint, a bank of windows, cathedral ceilings and more of an open-air feel. It will be called "The View" – two floors of event space and a state of the art kitchen. It is part of a business cluster spearheaded, funded and executed by a group of community members.
"It's one of those things when you just know something's right," said Donna Ryan. "It's a magical team." Ryan is a successful businesswoman and restaurateur in the Kittery area. She is an investor and partner in the Pepperrell Cove project. Last week, they signed final papers to buy out the current owner.
"You have to have partnerships, and the partnerships are just not a group of us that have come together, the partnership is right here around us," Ryan said. "They're our next door neighbors. They're the men and women who fish out of here."
The group teamed up with Carla Goodknight of CF Architects. She designed the mixed-use project. Her plans call for a two stage construction project on the same footprint as the current buildings. The Bistro and The View won't be ready until 2018 but two projects will be ready for summertime in Kittery Point: outdoor dining on "The Wharf" and a market called "Provisions" in space overlooking the water. It will be run by former school teacher Ann Kendall.
"It is very convenient for the communitym," Kendall said. "We'll have the milk, the eggs, the half and half that you forgot and hopefully we'll have the papers that you're interested in and your favorite coffee, cup of tea."
Kendall believes the fishing community will be some of her best customers. "They won't have to drive seven minutes to get a cup of coffee at the Dunkin' Donuts!" Inside, the work has yet to begin but Kendall is confident she'll be open for business by the beginning of July.
And many in this coastal town are looking forward to that convenience. When Frisbee's Market was lost to fire, they lost their neighborhood go-to, convenience store. And that lends even more importance to the anticipated Pepperrell Cove project. In many ways, it is much like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes.
"You know it would be good to see it come back and be viable," shared lobsterman Dick Draper. "I'm looking forward to what they're going to do."
Chef Henry Ares says he hopes it brings the community he grew up in back together again. "Like back in the day. I mean this is a great meeting spot for everyone."
The group behind the project says it is paying close attention to the historical details of the original Frisbee's Market. They are using a black and white photo of the original Frisbee's to help them with accuracy. The same photo hung on the wall inside the market for over one hundred years, somehow surviving the fire.
Donna Ryan traces her finger over the front of the building in the photo. "We're gonna honor the past, every one of us want to restore it to what it was. The windows along the front, the special detail around the doorway. That is very important to us."
What is clearly very important to this group is that they are working on this project together. It's a labor of loving attention and intention, which will bring jobs and undoubtedly a tourism boost to the economy. But on a deeper level, this project represents what a community can do to reclaim what is uniquely theirs: the Kittery Point spirit.
You can contact the Pepperrell Cove group at (207) 994-3915.