Monday, July 28, 2014

Spotlight on: Cafe Sebago Family Diner - By Michelle Libby

Bill Hines had never owned a restaurant when he bought the business at 1248 Roosevelt Trail in 2005. He had always wanted to and his wife Kim had experience in the industry, so they jumped in with both feet. 
After many years running a lunch and dinner establishment, Bill decided that his feet were tired and he was ready for a change. 

On June 30th, Café Sebago opened with new hours and a new breakfast menu. Café Sebago is still serving many of its old favorites at lunch time. 

“I provide a good meal at discount prices,” said Bill. “I have a rib eye steak for $16, where anywhere else it would be $25.”

Café Sebago was a favorite local watering hole, before filling a breakfast niche left empty by recent closures in the Windham area. Bill was surprised at how much it affected the community, but he hopes his regulars will return for breakfast and lunch. Diners can still have mimosas and Bloody Mary’s with breakfast and wine and bottled beer with their lunches, said Bill. 

The menu is a plethora of choices from A Sebago Sunrise, consisting of two eggs, bacon, sausage or ham, home fries and toast and eight different specialty omelets including lobster and green eggs and ham (Basil pesto, prosciutto ham, bacon and Gouda cheese ) to pancakes and waffles. 

For lunch, guests can feast on a 5 ounce lobster roll or homemade smoked corn and seafood chowder. The choices don’t stop there. Other items include sandwiches, platters, soups and salads. There is also a small children’s menu.  

Bill employs four waitresses and two cooks. He makes the soups and his own hollandaise sauce. One of his chefs, Scott Valente, helped create the corned beef hash recipe. 

In the winter, Bill plans to serve comfort food prepared on site, like meatloaf and casseroles. “I just like to cook,” he said. 

He also takes suggestions for additions to the menu or how to tweak a recipe. “I take suggestions. If something is wrong, I want to know about it,” Bill said. 
The menu can be found on and they are on Facebook. 

“If I put out a decent meal at a decent price, people will tell other people,” he said. “I pride myself on what I do.” 

The hours are Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Take out is available.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Business spotlight - Sebago Trails Paddling Company - By Michelle Libby

When Bill and Katelyn Allen opened Sebago Trails Paddling Company in May of 2013, they didn’t expect it to be the rainiest spring in recent memory. Despite the wet beginning to their business, they rented canoes, kayaks and paddleboards to locals and tourists until the end of October. 

This year has already been a better paddling season, said Bill, who has been paddling since he first learned to row at his grandfather’s camp. When he was in high school, he purchased his first kayak and hasn’t looked back. 

Sebago Trails has more than 40 boats to rent by the hour, day, week or more. In addition to renting kayaks, standup paddleboards and canoes, it also buys and sell used boats and do some consignment sales. Bill and Katelyn do service on kayaks and canoes and do plastic welding on boats that have holes in them. They have even done trade-ins. 

“I do a lot of information giving,” said Bill after a customer stopped by to find a good place to canoe with his daughter. 

“I want to be the go to person. Do you have a question about paddling in the region? I have the answer,” Bill said. 

There are 30 to 40 launch sites in a 12-mile radius of North Windham, and Sebago Trails delivers to any of those sites for a small fee. Boats, life jackets and paddles can also be picked up at the shop. The store has a small retail stock of sunscreens, bug sprays and water tight bags to store valuables in as well as life jackets and paddles. 

The store front is located at 4 White’s Bridge Road, right off Route 302 in North Windham. 

Sebago Trails Paddling does more than just kayak rentals, they also do classes on paddling through Windham/Raymond Adult Education and Gorham Adult Education. They are also on Through the meetup site, Bill and Katelyn set up different paddles. Bill is quick to point out that there is no membership, no dues. A person brings his or her own craft to paddle or rents one from Bill and then they go with the group. “It’s like a flashmob,” said Bill.
Last Saturday, the meetup did a full moon paddle at Raymond Beach. They watched the sun set and the super moon rise from the seats of their kayaks. There is another meetup scheduled for August 10th. “A lot of people are virtual strangers and at the end they’re friends,” Bill said. 

Sebago Trails stays open until October for fall foliage paddles. “This is really what people are missing out on,” he said. October first is a great time to paddle to see the foliage. 
In the area, tourists are often amazed at how much wildlife they see on their paddles in Windham, for example. One couple from New York rented kayaks and went over by Gambo Dam on Bill’s recommendation (it’s his favorite place). During their trip, they saw deer, a bald eagle, geese and more.
In addition to meetup, Bill also organized paddles for groups. 

For a quick paddle, visit Lippman Park and rent kayaks by the hour from Sebago Trails Paddling Company. The cost is $10 per hour and renters go to the store first, then go get the kayaks. There are three kayaks and a canoe stored near Chaffin Pond for rentals. 
In the future, Bill hopes to increase the retail store inventory. “I’d like to be the area’s leading paddle sports outfitter,” he said. They will also be expanding the sales of new Emotion and Riot kayaks.
Renting is a great way to discover if you like the sport before forking over the money and then discovering that it’s not to your liking. “The first goal is to go out and have fun,” Bill said. 

Reservations are recommended. Visit them online at, in Facebook or call 894-4696.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Business spotlight on Blue Seal Feeds - By Michelle Libby

Blue Seal Feeds and Needs on Route 202 in South Windham can support all customers whether they want to have a hobby farm with only a few chickens or those who have a large farm with many animals. They also have much more than just farm animal supplies including a room of dog food, toys, collars, products for birds, cats and even gifts from local farms and suppliers. 

“We specialize in feed for any critter under the sun. We make food for anything,” said manager Aimee Smith. “Our tag line is ‘Pet, Farm, Home, Lawn and Garden’,” she said. 

The Windham store is owned Blue Seal, only one of 10 in New England, owned by the corporation. The other stores, except Bangor, are independently run. 

The store in Windham opened in 1868 on Depot Street and moved to its present location in the late 1980s. Over the years their inventory has changed focus, but they still carry items for all animals from horse tack to bird supplies. 

They also carry the Dansko line of clogs for humans, which is popular around the holidays for gifts, Smith said. The store also carries Maine and local items like Cooper’s Honey, Merrifield’s Maple Syrup, Mutt Nose Best Dog Shampoos, Moxie Jelly, Coast of Maine Soils and composts and Maine made art, crafts and other gift items. 

“Generally people of Windham know what we carry before they come in,” said Smith. She added that some people think that it’s a store for only farmers who buy burlap sacks of feed and purchase seeds in barrels. “I think people are pleasantly surprised.”

In the spring, Blue Seal orders chicks, pigs, and new next year they will attempt to find goats and lambs for customers. At times they can’t get the larger animals in stock, but they will try.

Hobby farmers like items that fit into a small space in the backyard, like a chicken coop or a rabbit hutch, Smith said. Ducks are also a new trend in hobby farming. Not sure about farming?

“We strive for excelled customer service. We try to hire people with some knowledge of animals or lawn and garden. Most of us have been to school for quite a bit and have degrees in agriculture,” said Smith. The staff also receives general training. 

If a customer wants to set up their own farm, Blue Seal even has fencing. There is a rewards program for frequent shoppers. Blue Seal delivers to Windham and surrounding towns, Smith said. 

As far as Blue Seal’s competition in town, Smith isn’t concerned. “There’s a honeymoon period. (Customers) value our customer service and product knowledge,” she said. 

The store provides classes randomly throughout the year, like beekeeping and gardening. They work cooperatively with the Animal Refuge League and the Maine Lab Rescue having cats in the store and on the last Saturday of the month they host puppies. 

Windham’s Blue Seal is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Although The Windham store is more of a “walk-in” store, many of their items can be found online at

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Business spotlight - Essentials - By Michelle Libby

There’s something for everybody at Essentials on Route 302 in Raymond. The new store, featuring unique gifts of every type, opened May 1. 

“I love shopping,” said owner Veronica Meyer. “Everything I would have or want, I have it in the store.”
The store is modeled after Meyer’s favorite store in Rangely, she said. “I had a vision a couple of years ago. We need something like this in this area,” she said. She wanted to have a place that she felt comfortable in, that wasn’t too cluttered and had unique Maine items as well as things like decorative pillows, glassware, WoodWick candles and sports memorabilia. 

“I wanted to be a go to store for gifts without having to run to Windham,” Meyer said. 

There are unique hats and bags as well as Vinrellas, which are umbrellas that come in thin wine bottles meant to be used to store the umbrella wet or dry. Maine photo cards by Bruce Small and sweatshirts and T-shirts are also available. There are puzzles and games for children.

There are dog toys created by a local teenager and treats for four-legged friends. The shop offers Chrysalis jewelry that resembles Alex & Ani bracelets and custom-made jewelry from local craftsmen. Meyer carries custom-made Maine pendants made with silver from a woman in Scarborough. These pendants were made exclusively for Essentials.  

Where can you find artwork from a local teacher? Essentials carries pottery from an RSU14 art teacher.
Meyer’s first purchase for the store was from a company called Paint the Town. “I knew what we liked when we went away,” she said. 

The store has been described as The Cry of the Loon for young people,” Meyer said. 

Don’t need those kinds of gifts? The store also carries three different lines of skin care products, like Green Koala. Food items like old fashioned candy and Fennelly Farms jams can be found in the store.
Meyers worked for her husband in construction doing paperwork while she raised her two children, one who is 23 and one who is 14. Her husband encouraged her to do something to make her feel good now that they children are older. 
Meyer tries to buy things made in the USA or New England items. The store is not only for people from away, but for friends, family, locals and casual shoppers. It’s for those looking for a birthday gift, or looking to redecorate a room in their home, it’s for those who need something special or those who want to buy a gift certificate and let the recipient choose his or her own unique gift. 

Meyer is hoping to bring in frames, friendship balls and seasonal products. 

“I try to be more personalized and will take special orders, requests and feedback,” Meyer said. 

Items purchased are wrapped in tissue paper and put in a nice bag with the Essentials sticker on it. “You feel good when you leave,” she said. 

Essentials is located at 1263 Roosevelt Trail and can be found on Facebook under Essentials Gift Shop. The store is closed Sundays and Mondays. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday they close at 3 p.m.