On November 25, Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe closed its doors at the Tontine Mall for the last time. One week later on December 4, the popular eatery reopened to the public at its new location in Brunswick Landing, next to the Brunswick Executive Airport.
“We were in our location for almost 30 years. And at the beginning, we had run out of space. The landlord of where we were, the Tontine Mall, had plans of expanding that didn’t include us. So we started looking for another space,” said Becky Shepherd, who owns Wild Oats with her husband, David Shepherd.
However, finding a place big enough for the business in the Downtown District proved to be difficult, especially one that would offer parking for customers.
“We never thought we’d ever move out of downtown, but we looked into finding a place that had enough room to build or do any kind of renovations on buildings downtown and have parking there, [and] there was just nothing,” said Shepherd.
In late 2019, the Shepherd family decided to buy land and build a new site in Brunswick Landing, finally gaining the facilities it needed to accommodate the store’s offerings and try out new possibilities.
“When we were designing the building, we were at 8,000 square feet. We initially came to the designer wanting 12,000 square feet. And here we are, with 19,000 square feet. We kept wanting more and more different things,” said Marshall Shepherd, project manager and son of the owners.
When the plans for Wild Oats’ relocation were released in November 2019, the announcement was met with mixed reactions.
“It was kind of a mixed feeling both on the customers’ end and ours, as we didn’t know what it was going to be like coming out here,” said Becky Shepherd.
As construction continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the optimism that the Shepherds felt about Wild Oats’ future grew. However, they knew that the business relied on the customers’ reaction to the new space. And, despite the two locations being only three miles apart, many loyal customers of the store were hesitant.
“Initially, I was disappointed that they were no longer going to be in walking distance from Bowdoin. But, as an upperclassman that has already spent three years going to Wild Oats pretty regularly, [the move is] not going to impact whether or not I go there. I’m still going to go,” said Emma Beaulieu ’21 in a FaceTime interview with the Orient.
Since the reopening, many Wild Oats customers have loved seeing the new space. While the building was designed pre-pandemic, Becky Shepard is grateful for all the indoor space afforded by the new location.
“Since opening here we’ve been incredibly busy. We were really lucky because we designed the building to be open and airy, and that has helped us in the pandemic,” said Becky Shepherd.
Evan Marrow ’21 visited Wild Oats’ new location before arriving on campus this semester. Although Marrow agreed that Brunswick Landing’s driving distance to campus was a downside to the new location, he thought the upgrade in space outweighed the distance.
“I’m just glad that they did make that move,“ said Marrow in a FaceTime interview with the Orient. “I feel like they’re finally in a space that they deserve based on the quality of their food and the amount of variety they have.”
All the space has given the Shepherds the opportunity to expand the store’s offerings. With a dessert counter that spans one wall and freezers along another, the 11,000-square-foot difference between the old and new locations allows Becky Shepherd to try new recipes.
“We’ve also expanded a lot of what we’re doing, so we have more space for our grab-and-go freezer entrees, as well as our smoothies. We have our own teas and juices and salad dressings. We’ve expanded a lot of our offerings because we have more space to do that,” said Becky Shepherd.
While the Shepherds are excited for all of their customers to enjoy the new location, they cannot wait for more Bowdoin students to visit. Wild Oats may no longer be downtown, but the family still feels connected to the College community.
“We love Bowdoin students, and we love being part of the Bowdoin community because I think Bowdoin brings so much to the town, both the students, the faculty and the staff. It’s such a huge part of our community,” said Becky Shepherd.