Friday, November 27, 2009

Golden Harvest named Employer of the Year by Center for Entrepreneurship

By Devin Beliveau
Staff Columnist
For an old business, a new accolade.
Golden Harvest, a local produce market and specialty foods store, has been named Employer of the Year at York County Community College’s 5th Annual Entrepreneur Awards.
“I was really shocked. It was wonderful. We were flattered,” said co-owner Carla Spencer, who has owned and run Golden Harvest with her husband Jim since September 1998.
The Spencers received the award from the Center for Entrepreneurship at a ceremony at The Coastal House in Wells on Nov. 4th. Other finalists for the award were Province Automation in Sanford, and this newspaper, The Weekly Sentinel.
Eligibility for the award required that a business “maintained or added to staff levels in the past 12 months, and demonstrates stability as an employer.”
“We have a lot of long-term employees, some that have been with us 30 years,” said Jim Spencer. “We don’t turn over a lot of people. We bring people in, they stay with us. We bring them along. That’s been really good for us. That’s the key to what we do.”
Golden Harvest has continued to add employees over the past year despite the difficult economy. “We’ve added a couple of management positions and a couple of wholesale positions,” said Jim.
Since May 2006 the Spencers have also owned Carl’s Meat Market, which is located next door to Golden Harvest. “Between the two places it’s about 50 employees right now, and around 55 or 58 in the summer,” said Carla.
The economy has been a concern for the Spencers. “The economy effects the way things are. People spend less money,” said Carla. “But we are consistent with our numbers from last year, which is good,” added Jim.
Golden Harvest is a landmark business in Kittery’s “Gourmet Alley” on Route 1. “The community is very supportive, and they tell us what they think frequently, which is nice because it tells you how you’re doing,” said Carla.
Golden Harvest was nominated for Employer of the Year by Sen. Peter Bowman (D-Kittery). Jim Spencer believes that Golden Harvest’s willingness to go the extra mile for customers is what inspired Sen. Bowman’s nomination. “If you want something special, a unique bottle of wine, we’ll bring it in. People will ask for this and that and we’ll try to accommodate them,” said Jim.
Golden Harvest has been around “since the late 50s,” according to Jim. The Spencers purchased the business from Dominick Peluso, who started and ran the business for its first 40 years.
Carl’s Meat Market has been in and out of Carla’s family since the 1930s. “Carl Peschel, my great-grandfather, started it,” Carla explained. “After Carl Peschel passed away his son Ken took the business over. Then he sold it to Frank Belleville, who worked for him. Then we bought it from Frank.”
The Spencers are clearly proud of the long local histories of these two community markets. “Our goal is to always maintain what the Golden Harvest was, but also keep changing with the times,” Carla said. Jim nodded in agreement, and also added that as Employer of the Year, “We’re happy just the way it is.”
Golden Harvest and Carl’s Meat Market are located at 47 and 25 State Road (Route 1) in Kittery.
Photo caption: Carla and Jim Spencer of Golden Harvest in Kittery. (Devin Beliveau photo)

Collaboration in the Air with Libraries in the Berwicks

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist
In the face of shrinking resources and a desire to maximize library services for their constituents, Librarians Sandy Broomfield (Berwick), Mamie Ney (South Berwick) and Beth Sweet (D.A. Hurd, North Berwick) took an historic step recently. They agreed formally to a reciprocal arrangement that allows legal residents of each of the three towns to sign up for free library cards at all three libraries.
“We have been collaborating, but not formally,” said Ney.
“We decided the three of us could have patrons from each town share the library,” said Broomfield.
It wasn’t a simple matter, however. To complete the agreement, the librarians had to get their boards (in the case of Berwick and D.A. Hurd) and town officials (in the case of South Berwick) to go along with the idea. The different organizational structures of the three facilities complicated things. Only the South Berwick library is a town department; Berwick and Hurd are non-profits directed by boards of directors.
They convinced folks that collaboration was a good thing.
“For example, it saves us from inter-library loan costs,” Sweet said. “Usually, books are mailed between libraries and $2.45 is the average mailing fee. So giving people cards helps with that. We’re also all small libraries, so jointly hosting events can draw larger audiences.”
In fact, joint events are already on the drawing board, thanks to a grant the group got from the Maine Humanities Council to support the formation of a book discussion group.
“The grant will provide a facilitator to run five book discussions,” Sweet said. “It will also provide the books to lend.”
“The Council was looking for libraries to work together, so that worked in our favor,” said Ney.
“The hope is that we’ll alternate the discussions among all three libraries, so people will get familiar with (ones outside their towns),” Sweet said.
The discussion groups will likely begin in March. But that’s not the only shared activity. Museum passes is another area of collaboration.
“We got a $2,500 grant from Kennebunk Savings Bank for all three to get museum passes, to places like the Maine Children’s Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Portland Museum of Art, Strawbery Banke and Willowbrook,” Broomfield said.
The trio continues to explore other possibilities. “There are so many ways to cooperate, like ordering supplies together (to get better prices),” Ney said. “There’s a lot we can do internally and externally. It also gives us a good excuse to get together, to see how we’re dealing with similar things.”
Sweet agreed. “We could do staff training together and fundraising,” she said. “Maybe we could do an annual golf tournament. If we combined forces, we could see larger fundraising events.”
Like many industries, the landscape for public libraries is changing and that motivates the need for creative thinking.
“Our mission is changing,” said Ney. “We’re becoming an information town commons. That’s been important to all libraries.”
And that also drives the desire to collaborate. “We’re trying to unite so that we can present the greatest opportunities for all our residents,” Broomfield said.

New Owners Re-Open Litchfield’s

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist
There’s a new dining and entertainment venue in Wells at a familiar old location. Litchfield’s Bar and Grill, under new owners Elaine and Bob Stone and Execuitve Chef Tom Perron (Elaine’s brother), opened its doors on Nov. 18. Located at the site of the former Litchfield’s Restaurant, the new operation offers not only an extensive dining menu and full bar, but also a video game room and pizza parlor that offers a variety of pizzas, subs, appetizers, salads, and Italian dishes.
“We make almost everything from scratch,” Perron said. “We make our own burgers, pizza sauce, ribs, even the batter for fried chicken. All our soups and stews are homemade. We try to do as much as we can.”
Indeed, the dinner menu is five pages long, and offers everything from soups to salads to sandwiches to steaks, chicken and seafood. And the menu is reasonably priced, with no entrée above $20.
And there is full bar service as well. “We have a new tap system, with 14 beers on tap and two separate taps,” said Perron, noting also that the bar was fully stocked with wine and other spirits.
Separating the dining area from the pizza parlor is a game room, with a multitude of game options. “It’s a full game room,” Perron said. “There’s Guitar Hero, poker, classic Pac-man, NBA Showtime, things like that.”
There’s even a game that offers an opportunity to win Coach bags.
The pizza parlor also offers specialty pizzas like shrimp and sweet sausage, clams casino (clams, bacon, and bell peppers), eggplant and feta cheese, and Hawaiian ham and pineapple, to name just a few.
“People can dine in, carry out, use curbside pick-up, or have delivery,” said Perron. For now, delivery is limited to Wells only, though that could change in the future.
The operation uses the shell of the former restaurant, with the interior fully renovated. The dining area seats 150, with the familiar atrium room still an attractive feature of the dining room, giving it a bright and airy feel. The bathrooms were completely redone also and are handicap accessible.
Perron said there are plans to expand in the future. The plan is to use the land to the rear of the building to put another, adjoining structure with a capacity of 150 that would allow the restaurant to handle functions, and offer music and entertainment.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the restaurant, though, has nothing to do with food. There’s a memorial to the victims of the 9-11attacks – a fountain – that sits between the entrances to the restaurant and the pizza parlor. Perron said it will be dedicated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, at 2 p.m. The dedication will be attended by firefighters from throughout southern Maine.
Litchfield’s, 2135 Post Road in Wells, is open seven days a week from 11 a.m.
Photo caption: Bartender Deb Vaughn at the new 14 beer tap system at Litchfield’s Bar and Grill in Wells. (Jim Kanak photo)