2012-02-16 / Front Page

Mall moves under way

Fabric store, café expanding
BY DARCIE MOORE Times Record Staff

TOPSHAM — Owners of the Topsham Fair Mall are moving forward with a store expansion that will trigger the relocation of another mall tenant.

John Larson, who with his wife, June, owns the mall stores between Renys and the Hannaford supermarket, said Monday that while a lease hasn’t been signed with Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts, “we are moving forward as if it had been,” to meet deadlines to make space available per Jo-Ann’s plans to expand.

Construction to accommodate an expansion of the fabric and craft store is under way.

“We are anticipating that Jo-Ann’s will be expanding by approximately 5,000 square feet,” Larson said. “And in order to accomplish that, they will be annexing the adjacent Fairground Café and Maine Army National Guard recruiting spaces,” which are in suites 14 and 13. The Fairground Café will relocate from suite 14 to suites 10 and 11 — formerly occupied by Petland. The Guard is leaving.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts started out in the location with about 8,000 square feet, Larson said. About four years ago, the store expanded to approximately 13,000 square feet by adding space that formerly belonged to a Western Tool store.

“The store is just an incredibly successful store and they were desirous of expanding again, and those conversations really started in earnest maybe as much as a year ago,” Larson said. “ We’re obviously extremely pleased to have a store be that successful.”

Larson’s understanding is that Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts wants to have its new space open by Labor Day. The store will remain open during construction, he said.

According to its website, Jo- Ann Fabric and Craft stores is the nation’s largest specialty retailer of fabrics and crafts. Headquartered in Hudson, Ohio, the chain operates more than 770 stores in 49 states.

After being contacted Monday, representatives of the company did not return phone calls by press time.

The move also will allow the Fairground Café to expand, Larson said. In its new location, the eatery’s floor space will increase from about 3,000 square feet to about 5,700 square feet.

“We are going to try to minimize the time the café is shut down,” Larson said, noting that a restaurant can’t be moved without shutting it down for a short period of time to transfer appliances to the new location. He is hopeful the process will be completed in less than a week.

“We will have all of the construction finished in anticipation of moving all of the appliances, so once that’s done, everything will be ready to go,” Larson said.

Perry Leavitt of Brunswick, who has owned the Fairground Café for five years, said he believes the restaurant has been in its current location since 1992. Leavitt said business has been good and while, “the recession took a little toll, I did OK through it.”

The impending move to a new and bigger space is definitely working to his advantage, Leavitt said.

“It’s going to give us more booth space. It’s going to give us more kitchen space that we need badly, and I’m going to have a private meeting room called the Merrymeeting Room that will seat up to 50 people,” Leavitt said.

Adding 10 tables will help the Fairground Café reduce the waiting line that forms on weekends. Leavitt said he also could seat diners in the Merrymeeting Room during busy times.

Leavitt also plans to expand his menu over time “because we’ll have a much larger kitchen.”

“I think I can have a much better environment for the customers,” said Leavitt, who also believes the expansion will allow him to hire more staff.

But he emphasized that when diners arrive at the new location, “It’s the same friendly staff.”

Leavitt hopes to be in the new space by the first week of April.

The café, which initially served only breakfast, increased its hours a couple years ago. It is open Monday and Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Business hours will be the same when the café opens in its new location, “but I’m sure I’ll expand,” Leavitt said.

“My customers seem very excited, and of course I’m going to work to attract new customers,” Leavitt said of the move.



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