Bowdoin students returned to campus this fall to find six stores on Maine Street with dark windows and locked doors. In light of these businesses' departures—two stores of which had been open for almost half a century—Brunswick has been forced to rebalance.
Three restaurants are gone: Bacari Bistro closed, and The Market Basket and Provisions consolidated to other preexisting locations. Red Dragon Toys also ended its eight-year stay last spring.
Along with these younger businesses, two Brunswick landmarks also ended their stretches in Brunswick. After 54 years of selling consignment clothes, Second Hand Rose shut its doors in April, and Frosty's Donut Shop closed following the death of cofounder June Frost after 46 years of serving early-morning donuts.
The departure of these three restaurants leaves Brunswick's culinary scene with 63 remaining restaurants, according to Brunswick's Downtown Association. Natalie Johnson '13 spoke positively of the number of restaurants on Maine Street.
"Since there is so much competition, it makes it so the restaurants have to be good to survive," she said.
Some members of the Bowdoin community, however, hoped that the six vacancies would lead to more diversity in Brunswick. Director of Student Life Allen Delong said students might be more satisfied with "some clothing stores that would cater to how students live their lives."
Regardless of what kind of businesses come to Brunswick next, Delong said that new additions to the town should have one-of-a-kind vibes—consistent with the venues they are replacing.
"Chains have their place in contemporary society," he said, "but Brunswick has a charming downtown with local merchants."
Small business ventures not only reinforce the charm of Maine Street itself, Delong said, but also excite student interest off campus.
"For some students it's important to walk in and say, 'This place has its own vibe, and only exists in my town,'" he said. "Students feel this affiliation with Brunswick because they have these things that exist only in Brunswick."
Many Bowdoin students felt that kind of a connection with Frosty's before it closed in August. Johnson said that Frosty's departure was "pretty devastating. I never actually went there, but it's on this long list of things you have to do before you graduate."
"It was something everybody talked about," added Katie Guttenplan '12, "a sort of Bowdoin tradition in Brunswick."
New businesses are conscious of the important relationship between Bowdoin students and Brunswick's independent venues.
The Inn at Brunswick Station, a new hotel in Brunswick, was completed over the summer with the intention of housing Bowdoin alumni and students' parents during Bowdoin events. Outside hangs a banner advertising "Live Jazz" every Monday night.
One new business owner is Patricia Boissevain, who recently opened a food truck, The Northeast Noodle, on the Brunswick green with partner Damien Gormley.
Boissevain said that their three months in the Brunswick restaurant circle "have been absolutely successful" despite their 62 competitors.
Part of their success with The Northeast Noodle, Boissevain said, is due to their commitment to creating an unusual menu that highlights the strengths of Brunswick's local food.
"All of our dishes are vegetarian; even our tofu is made locally in Camden," she said.
Boissevain has considered how to cater her food specifically to Bowdoin students by "keeping [the truck] open later for dinner, even up to the midnight hour."
When asked what the larger Brunswick business community could do to accommodate a younger demographic, Boissevain replied, "We need something that will stay open late because Brunswick seems to close at eight o'clock."
Boissevain is excited to see if small changes in her food truck's hours could make students feel connected to Brunswick even after the sun goes down.
"The addition of food trucks, more restaurants, some later hours," she said.
"It all opens a door to socializing. They give people a reason to come down here, get their food, and eat on the mall. We're all about promoting community."