Two Brunswick businesses faced diverging fates last Saturday; while the sports bar Benchwarmers closed its doors indefinitely, Frosty's Donuts reopened under new ownership.
Benchwarmers owner Richard "Doc" Towle abruptly shut down the restaurant just a year and a half after it opened for business in the summer of 2010.
According to Alexa Dearborn, a former member of the Benchwarmers wait staff, Towle is in poor medical condition.
"He's very sick," she said. "I just think its not something he can handle right now, something like Benchwarmers where he had to constantly be making decisions and fixing things."
Towle is currently searching for someone to buy the business and pick up where he left off.
"It's not necessarily a permanent closing," said Manager Frank Bobe. "Hopefully something will happen, but as far as what, I really don't know."
Towle's former business partner Jeremy Saxton may hold the key for Benchwarmers' future.
"He had been in communications with Doc trying to find somebody to take over for Doc," said Bobe of Saxton.
Dearborn commented, "I don't know if he's going to buy it. I don't know what the deal is with that, but I know efforts are being made to repair the damage that's been done and see if there's anyway we can get that back open."
Dearborn believes Towle will resist selling the establishment to anyone he feels will not continue to run Benchwarmers in a similar fashion.
"His dream has always been to have a restaurant like that," Dearborn said. "He's not going to budge easily on selling it to somebody who's going to clean house."
Bobe echoed this sentiment: "In the case that somebody does take it over, [Towle] would like the employees that were there to have a job, but he understands that if somebody else does take it over, they have whatever rights and choices they'd like to make as far as employees."
Despite Towle's apparent reluctance to sell Benchwarmers, multiple offers have reportedly been made. The Inn at Brunswick Station contacted Towle previously, but little appears to have developed from that discussion.
"I know that the hotel offered him a whole lot of money for the whole building, but we all figured they would just turn it into a parking lot," said Dearborn.
Saxton and Towle were financial partners in Benchwarmers before Saxon removed himself from the business a couple months ago. He was the owner of Bacari, which closed last year.
Towle nonetheless appears hopeful that he will be able to reopen Benchwarmers. According to Dearborn, "He told us to leave all the decorations up. He wanted us to leave everything pretty much as is."
Bobe, however, finds it unlikely that this would be the case were Benchwarmers to open again.
"I believe he is trying to get someone else to take it over and remove himself from the actual ownership of the business," he said.
Farewell signs currently fill the windows of the now closed establishment, reading "Thank you for all the great memories and support. We appreciate you all."
Neither Towle nor Saxton could be reached for comment.
Earlier that day, the much-anticipated opening of Frosty's Donuts was met by a bustling line of customers that stretched far beyond the doors of the 54 Maine St. shop. The doughnut shop, which former owner Bob Frost put on the market last June, finally reopened at 8 a.m on Saturday.
"We were both in tears; we were overwhelmed," said current owner Nels Omdal. "I took out a tray of 50 twists to people in line and they disappeared immediately."
Omdal and his wife, Shelby St. Andre, have been working around the clock since they sold the first doughnut on Saturday morning.
On Sunday, Frosty's commenced its usual business hours of 4 a.m. to 12 p.m.
"But we've sold out long before that each day," said Frosty's co-owner St. Andre. "The first day we were sold out within two hours."
"We're averaging around 200 dozen each day," said Omdal. "And if we were able to make more, they'd keep selling."
"It's tough to turn people away," added St. Andre. "But that's the thing about our doughnuts—when you hand-make them, you can't cut any corners."
Omdal, who also works as Frosty's head baker, commented on the challenge of meeting such high demand.
"When we first bought the place, we thought we could come around two or three in the morning, but we found out very quickly that we'd have to be in by eight or nine at night to make enough doughnuts for the next morning," he said.
"We're pretty sleep deprived," said St. Andre. "But we've increased volume, everyday we're getting smoother and smoother."
The doughnut shop also offers free Wi-Fi and sells Odwalla smoothies, juices, milk, and coffee from neighboring Brunswick-based company, Wicked Joe's.
"We sell cups of coffee for a buck. You can't get it for a buck anywhere else," said St. Andre. "People have commented that the prices are just like they used to be back in the days of the old Frosty's."
Indeed, Frosty's rich history is plastered on the walls. Omdal and St. Andre have replaced most of the religious paraphernalia that once filled the interior with framed photographs of former owners Bob and June Frost working in the doughnut shop.
"We wanted to try to honor the legacy," said Omdal.
"And we've kept some things the same," said St. Andre, pointing to the words "Smile, Jesus Loves You" still printed on the menu board.
The effect of the redone vintage-inspired décor is one of simplicity and nostalgia. The pale yellow walls are adorned with charming prints, one of which reads "Doughnuts are to New Englanders what bagels are to New Yorkers; a daily necessity."
And if recent sales are any indication, Frosty's doughnuts certainly are a necessity in the Brunswick.
"Everyone's saying the donuts are just as good as they were, if not better," said St. Andre.
Though the locals are supportive, Frosty's fan base extends far beyond Brunswick, as seen in the counter's guest book.
"When there was a military base here, everyone living there would come in to Frosty's," said St. Andre. "Then that moved, and now there are people all over the country that know about us. They'll come in and ship donuts back home."
Omdal explained how on the first day, "one guy came in to buy half a dozen twists to bring to his wife in Indiana."
Omdal and St. Andre have also noticed a handful of Bowdoin students walk through the doors.
"I'd say I've seen about a dozen. One girl was bringing back doughnuts to some of her roommates," said St. Andre. "I'm thinking we'll get some more during finals week."
Several other Brunswick businesses are also transitioning.
Clementine's is in the process of transferring ownership. Management declined to comment on the deal, but stated that it intends to remain open throughout and after the transaction.
The management at Pennells Apparel finds themselves in a similar position, looking to sell the store and enter retirement after 41 years of business. The establishment plans to remain open after the sale.
Nonetheless, Brunswick stalwart Gelato Fiasco continues to do solid business following the successful opening of its Portland location in the first week of February.
The opening of the new storefront was delayed almost two months, due in part to the lengthy installation process of custom-made Italian display cabinets.
"We've been really fortunate I'd say in the last couple years" said co-founder Joshua Davis. "Business has been really good."
The popular gelato parlor has continued to expand recently, adding 10 employees in the last six months. "Everyday is obviously a challenge to deal with the growth and expansion," Davis said. Of the new hires Davis noted that "just getting them trained...and part of the culture is a big commitment to our staff."
Davis believes that people are now coming into the stores who previously only purchased Gelato Fiasco pints sold in Camden and Portsmouth, N.H.
"We really have benefitted a lot from an influx of a lot of different things all coming together in a good way," he said.Editors' Note: In an earlier version of this article, Jeremy Saxton (misspelt as Saxon) is referred to as the owner of Dolphin Marina and Restaurant. This is incorrect, as William Saxton is the actual owner of this buisness. The Orient regrets these errors.