SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The owners of the Seawall Motel plan to replace their ramshackle old restaurant building with weekly rental apartments.
The Common Good Soup Kitchen, which has operated in that space since it began in 2009, will be moving to the Post Office building in downtown Southwest Harbor. Common Good co-founder Larry Stettner said he expects the soup kitchen to open there June 13.
Between now and then, three events are scheduled for the current Seawall location: a brunch this Sunday, April 19, a fundraising supper May 2 and a Mother’s Day brunch May 10.
David and Vickie Lloyd bought the Seawall Motel and the eatery known as Annabelle’s Seawall Dining Room from longtime owner Annabelle Robbins in 2000.
“We continued to run the restaurant with Nancy Lally, who was probably the best cook on the island, until she retired four years later,” David Lloyd said.
He and his wife, along with Gail Ribas, then turned the restaurant into the Acadia Workshop Center, where visiting artists taught week-long workshops. The building’s final incarnation was as the Common Good Soup Kitchen, which served its first meal there in November 2009.
The Common Good, a nonprofit charitable organization, serves hot lunches including soups every Thursday from November through March. The meals are free, but donations are encouraged.
Volunteers deliver soup to people’s homes year round.
Cabin Fever Night suppers with live music are held every Saturday from January through March. Popovers are served on Sunday mornings in the winter.
The Common Good also serves popovers every day from mid-June through Columbus Day. Stettner said those daily events are the primary source of funding for the organization’s winter programs.
David Lloyd said he and his wife are proud to have been associated with and supporters of the Common Good.
“There’s a love and happiness that’s been in that building for the last five years or so,” he said. “They’ve done a wonderful job.”
The restaurant building is next to a freshwater pond and marsh and across the road from the natural seawall. The property abuts a section of Acadia National Park and what Lloyd said are five distinct ecosystems.
“With all these different animals and plants and birds living together … and producing a peace and beauty and harmony, I really think it is a metaphor for how mankind should live,” Lloyd said. “And having the Common Good here has made this one very nice, peaceful spot where life is as it should be.”
But unfortunately, he said, “The building has lived its life. It is not in good shape. It was structurally marginal to begin with, and the cost of repair is beyond reasonable economics.”
Lloyd said the design of the roof, which from either end looks like a shallow, stretched out letter “M,” has been a big part of the problem.
“It was designed to trap snow, and it does a wonderful job of it,” he said. “It has always leaked.”
Annabelle Robbins owned and operated the restaurant for 41 years, starting in 1959. Lloyd said that as a restaurant, the building was “a happy gathering place.” As home for the art workshop, it maintained “the warmth and happiness that was already in the building.” He said the Common Good perpetuated that atmosphere.
So, rather than tearing down the old building, Lloyd said, “It will go out in a blaze of glory, continuing its tradition of helping people.”
He said the fire departments on the island will set it ablaze and then fight the fire as a training exercise, probably in late May or early June.
The Lloyds have applied to the town for a permit to replace the former restaurant with a two-story building containing three two-bedroom units to be used as weekly rentals. The planning board is to consider that application tonight (Thursday). If the board approves, site work will begin soon after the existing structure is removed.
The rental units will be built in modules by Prestige Homes of Sussex, New Brunswick, and then assembled by Coastal Builders of Ellsworth. The Lloyds expect them to be ready to rent by mid-August.
The Common Good will lease its new space from Chiao-lin and Ken Korona, who are moving their Chow Maine Asian Specialties food business next door to the space occupied most recently by JayDub’s restaurant.
Stettner said the new location is “a wonderful setting to continue to serve the community with our full range of programs and to upgrade them.”
He said the Common Good needs to raise about $20,000 to prepare for opening in the new space. The needs include installing another restroom and a new floor in the dining room and buying furniture and serving equipment.
“We could use not only monetary donations, but bowls, cups and other items and volunteer labor to actually accomplish the move,” Stettner said.
The new Common Good space has a fully equipped commercial kitchen and both indoor and outdoor seating.