“I understand that people have been coming in (to the North Star Cafe) all day, sad, some even in tears that the Cafe is closing on Sunday,” said building owner Mike Salisbury earlier today. (He owns the building at the corner of Congress Street and Washington Avenue that houses The Snug and the North Star Cafe.) “It was hard to get up this morning and face this,” he said. “I’ll do something, like work out later, to help me get through this.”
Three years ago, Kim Anderson and her business partner, Anna Maria Tocci, started the business from scratch – always with the intention of providing healthy food with a performance stage. (Tocci is a professional singer herself and she wanted to provide a performance stage for other musicians.) It was also a place where everyone was encouraged to come in to use their laptops – which might have been part of their downfall according to a number of people. People come in here and spend 3 or 4 hours on their laptops and buy one cup of coffee. A business can’t survive like that.
Salisbury, 41, said: “I tried to do everything I could to help them. That included dropping the rent – substantially – in April. I want to get someone in there with similar politics and philosophies. They did it the right way. It was a nice place for everyone. There was a good mix of people here. Out of a crisis better things can happen and maybe that will happen here,” Salisbury said. He’ll put a “for rent” sign out in front of the building after Kim Anderson closes Sunday night. (She’s gotten another job at Pratt Abbot Cleaners.)
(See above photo of Salisbury.)
Mikaela Hammond, a Hill resident, said: “I’m shocked because I study a lot for school here. Financially, its hard to make any money in a new business.” Hammond is a business administration student major at USM. Its ironic because she wants to start a business just like the North Star Cafe – that is before the news came out today. Rachel Goldman who was sharing a table with a friend said: “It’s jarring. It’s a commuity here – actually several communities.” Lorrayne Carroll, said: “I’m heartbroken at the news.”
Back in 2006, Salisbury, began gutting the building that had “a dubious” reputation having been home base to several bars where fights were the nightly norm. The policeman used to stop by and thank him for cleaning it up and replacing the building with responsible management, Salisbury recalled this afternoon. The Snug was established in April of 07. The North Star Cafe came in three years ago.
“The North Star Cafe brought respectability to this block that hadn’t been here before. I’ll miss them,” said Melodi Hackett, owner of the nearby Portland Fibre Gallery & Weaving Studio at the bottom of Munjoy Hill News.