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More in Business
Sticking together, clicking their heels and soaring
RUBY SLIPPERS GANG — The counter at Ruby Slippers Café & Bakery is stocked with freshly made bread, pies, turnovers, cookies and candies. Sisters Laurie Farris, far left, and Stacy Martin, center, named the Harrison restaurant in honor of their mother. Another sister, Kathy Farris, helped to open the restaurant last November, and now her daughter, Jackie Smith, right, is working at the restaurant, too. The restaurant seats 25 to 30 people.
HARRISON — Stacy Martin knew she had made the right decision to open a restaurant in Harrison last November, even though it was long after summer visitors had gone home. After all, there were so many signs – including one from a psychic – that she was doing the right thing.
It all started last year when her friend Marlene Fillebrown asked her to look at some vacant restaurant space she owned. Fillebrown had purchased the huge white building on Route 117, right across the road from Crystal Lake, to open a spa and wellness center. Originally the entire building was a restaurant called Shorelands.
Martin knew the location well. In 1983, at the age of 13, Martin had excitedly (and illegally) accepted a part time job offer from Althea Mishoe, the owner of the restaurant.
“I told her I was too young, but she said I could say I was her granddaughter,” Martin said. Mishoe taught her how to make candy, launching her into what has been a 25 year career in the restaurant business.
The original Shorelands restaurant, which opened with just six tables, expanded over the years as its popularity grew. That building was destroyed by fire sometime in the 1990s, and was rebuilt to its current size. Fillebrown and her husband Paul purchased the building after Shorelands had been closed for several years.
Fillebrown told Martin she would love to see a bakery or a café open up next to her, and convinced her to come take a look. At the time Martin was helping her sister, Kathy Farris, run a deli and country store in Phillips. In addition to making candy for her sister’s store, Martin was also a wife, mother of two teenagers, and a college student taking five classes.
Remembering this is where she got her start, Martin agreed to come and look.
“When I walked in and saw the place, I thought, how can I not do this?” she said.
Her sister, Kathy, helped her open up. In December, a third sister, Laurie Farris, started talking about wanting to move back to Maine to work with her. She too, was in the restaurant business, having worked for three years at Simply Divine Catering in Barrington, R.I.
Although Laurie’s husband, Aaron, was reluctant to give up his 18-year job as a finish carpenter, they ultimately decided to take a chance that he would find work in Maine. Shortly after they moved into the small house behind the restaurant, she stopped at Sabre Yachts in Casco to see if they had any openings. Yes, they had just one: a finish carpenter.
“He started work there January 2, and he absolutely loves his job,” Laurie said. “Everything has just been falling into place.”
What the women find most remarkable about their business venture is how receptive and supportive people have been.
“They say things like, ‘we’re really glad you’re here,’ and ‘we hope you’re doing well,’ and ‘we want you to stay,’ ” Martin said.
“Every day, we see new people in here,” she added.
As they were getting ready to close up on the first day they opened, friends stopped in with Chinese takeout food. They included Stacy and Bre Worster, Fire Chief Scott Andrews and his wife, Lenita, and Mike and Claudia Gray.
“They told us to sit down and relax, and they would clean up. And they did. They said this was their way of welcoming us to Harrison. It meant so much to us – we were exhausted,” Martin said.
In the short time they’ve been open, they have already wooed a group of regulars, like Town Manager Bud Finch and Gary and Chris Searles, whose excavating business is just down the road.
One day Martin told the Searles she needed a big rock to put in front of a propane tank, to protect it from getting hit by someone parking a car.
“The next day, Gary Searles walked in and said, ‘You’ve gotta come see this rock I got for you,’ ” Martin said. When she followed him outside she saw a good-sized boulder in the bucket of his bucket loader, which he carefully dropped in front of the propane tank.
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, the restaurant comes to life about 5 a.m. every Wednesday morning when Martin arrives to begin baking loaves of bread for their breakfast and lunch menus.
They try to get most of their supplies from Maine vendors like Wymans whose farms supply them with frozen blueberries and raspberries for their fresh pies. Their coffee comes from Maine brewers like Maine Morning Roasters in Bridgton and Seacoast Coffee in Rockland.
Fresh eggs are supplied by Don and Joann Gullickson, owners of Oak Meadow Farm in Harrison, and they hope to start getting butter, cream and milk from Bill and Darcie Winslow, owners of High View Farm in Harrison.
Their breakfast menu has all the egg favorites, including eggs Benedict which Martin added to the menu by popular demand, egg sandwiches, omelets, pancakes and Momma Gull’s stuffed French toast. They also make fresh squeezed orange juice.
The lunch menu includes wraps, Reubens, quesadillas, burgers, salads, homemade soups and chowders, and a quiche of the day. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m .They recently added a brunch on Sundays.
“Last Sunday, every seat was filled,” Martin said. “It gave me goose bumps.”
They also have an upstairs room for special occasions like baby showers and family gatherings. At a recent “gallery reading” with a psychic named Gloria, Martin said they were so enthralled with her presentation, they put off cleaning up the kitchen so they could listen.
The psychic also made a prediction about their restaurant, saying, “You’re going to be very successful here.” She told them their mother, Bonnie White, who died in 2003 “is very much with you in this,” Martin said.
“I remember my mother saying once, ‘If you girls all stick together, you can do anything,’ ” Martin said.
They settled upon a name for their restaurant as a way of remembering their mother. After she was diagnosed with cancer, she moved in with Martin for two years before she passed away.
“One of the things on my mother’s bucket list was to join the Red Hat Society,” a loosely organized group of women who wear red and purple, and get together to socialize.
After her mother joined, one of the friends she made in that group who knew she was terminally ill, gave her a pin shaped like ruby red slippers.
“She told my mother that when she was ready, she could just click her heals twice and go.” “I was sitting with her one day when she was very ill, and I asked her, ‘What are you waiting for?’”
“Then I remembered the red slippers pin. I got it and pinned it on her, and she took her last breath.”
This summer they plan to open up the deck for more dining, and they’re looking into putting in a dock so people can come by boat. Looking out a big picture window with a view of the snow covered lake, she added, “This just feels right.”