Friday, May 27, 2016

Business spotlight - Franco's Bistro - By Michelle Libby employee walks into Franco’s Bistro and calls out, “Smells good, Frank must be here!” How can
he tell? The aroma screams Italian, fresh and unique. That’s Franco’s Bistro at the intersection of Route 302 and Whites Bridge Road. It’s unique because owner Frank Merced creates everything that is served from scratch and usually from recipes he writes himself.

Franco’s opened just over a year ago and despite sitting at an awkward intersection, which is now undergoing construction, Frank and his wife Elaine are optimistic about the future of Franco’s. 

“We saw an opportunity down here that I can bring to Windham a nice addition of fresh cooking,” said Frank, who also owns Merced’s on Brandy Pond in Naples. “We’re here and we want you to experience us and we want to offer you a really good experience.” 

Frank has been a chef for 39 years. He knew as a boy that he wanted to cook and had a flair for it. He did two years of cooking classes in high school and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1977. He worked in many kitchens before opening Merced’s five years ago. 

“The restaurant business is a very, very tough business to get into. Things take time to develop,” he said. Being at the end of the commercial district is a bonus for Frank and Elaine. “Once it’s cleaned up and working the way it’s supposed to appearance-wise, people can come here to get a nice meal and great service.” 

“People can have a really nice experience here,” he said. The most important part of the dining experience at Franco’s Bistro is “having that sense of being personal with the local clientele. I like to go around and talk with people. It’s not just the food end. There is a face behind what we do here.” The 72 seat bistro is cozy and intimate. 

The menu is a blend of Italian and American cuisine, featuring traditional Italian fare as well as choice steaks and fresh seafood. They also serve lighter fare and smaller portions for those who might want that option. The portion size doesn’t matter because people box up portions to take home so they have room for the Italian lemon cake, cannoli, crème Brulee and toasted almond and amaretto cheesecake, all made in-house by Frank. 

“I just love food,” Frank said as he put together a lasagna from scratch, layering in homemade roasted plum tomato marinara made with no onions, no tomato paste and chunks of garlic, sausage, ground beef and buffalo cheese, which has its own unique flavor. 

Frank’s favorite dishes to make are Shellfish Fra Diavlo with sautéed shrimp, mussels, clams, salmon, scallops, red peppers and mushrooms over pasta, lasagna, and lobster Mascarpone ravioli, which is sautéed lobster with brandy, white wine and Mascarpone cheese, topped with mushroom pesto and truffle oil. 
“I wanted to do something that sets us apart. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. This is what sets us apart from other restaurants,” everything is made fresh to order. “That’s my philosophy with food,” Frank said. “Have a nice, high end meal and add your personal touch.” Most of the recipes served are Frank’s creation and many contain “Frank spice”, his own blend that can be used on any dish to give it a distinct character, he said. He also makes all of the salad dressings and even the bread. 

He said that people love the chicken and veal parmigiana and the steaks as well as the baked scallops and baked haddock. One of the house specialties is the Filetto Mignon Alla Barberosa topped with a rich barbera wine reduction, served with mushrooms and roasted asparagus. There are also nightly specials.
“It’s all really good, I’m proud to say,” Frank said.

They are open at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and close at 8 p.m. all except Fridays and Saturdays when they close at 9 p.m. They will open Mondays for the summer starting July 4th. Reservations are recommended for a party of five or more. Walk-ins are welcome. They also have a full bar with Happy Hour. For more about Franco’s Bistro, visit, find them on Facebook or come in and experience their delicious food for yourself!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flip to a Different Eagle Section

Business spotlight - White Knuckle Kustoms - By Michelle Libby

With the recognizable graffiti bus out front cut to be a toy hauler, White Knuckle Kustoms has begun working on custom pieces that go well beyond vanilla into trendy tricked out motorcycles as well as kitchens and railings at their new shop on Route 302 in Windham. Owned by Adam Zajac, the company moved to a new location in January of this year to open his custom fabrication shop after six years at a previous spot, just a few miles away.

“We’re here in Windham, a local business that keeps it local. I love the Town of Windham,” said Zajac, who also lives in Windham and is raising his family here. 

White Knuckle Kustoms does custom work on motorcycles as well as a variety of other services. They offer machining services, welding for alloys, some leatherwork and custom metal engraving by their own in house artist. 
“I love welding,” said Zajac. “I used to do high purity pharmaceutical grade TIG welding. I always wanted to do something more edgy and creative. I always loved motorcycles and I always had to modify something.” 

The eight employee shop runs like a well-oiled machine. Each person has their own niche, said Zajac. There’s a mechanic, machinist, CNC equipment operator that allows Zajac to manipulate up to a ¼ inch sheet of metal, a welder and of course an engraver. They weld on aluminum, titanium, copper and more. “We like to call ourselves molten manipulators,” he added. 

“We are built on quality. We try to keep up with the demands of our customers,” he said. Demand has been so strong that Zajac’s dream storefront in the old Pinelyne building has taken a backseat and he is hoping to have it open by June. When they do open, they will feature home furnishings like lamps, tables, bedframes, custom railings and a clothing line with belt buckles and geared toward welding. In addition, there will be T-shirts, jackets and hats with the White Knuckle Kustoms logo. He said that “motorheads” will like the style. There will be some leather work, also.

There will be parts and accessories for motorcycles in the store. “We’re a one off custom shop,” said Zajac. They make items for customers that are one of a kind and may never be made again.

They have designers and engineers that can help customers decide what they would like done from a complete kitchen design to custom fit handlebars. They won’t mass produce the item and it will fit the customer exactly, he said. When it comes to handlebars, the right placement is important when riding long distances. They are very competitive with pricing too, charging only  $60 per hour for labor. 

“I don’t know anyone who does the broad aspects of what we do,” Zajac said.  

The customers they service are individuals and large companies. They do all of Shipyard Brewing Company’s metal fabrication and do sanitary welding for other businesses. They work with high end architects and interior designers. Many people also come in for small projects, like fixing a weld on their boat trailer or patching the pontoon on a boat. In addition, they do work for high end motorsports like a 600 Hp rally car or a drift car with roll cages and custom work. They do a lot of race oriented work like custom bumpers and special exhaust systems for snowmobiles and that was where Zajac saw the business going when he first opened, but now they are ready for many more types of projects.
“Quality control is huge. We are quality over quantity,” he said. He likes to say he has a “stainless reputation.”

One of the coolest projects Zajac can recall is putting in a customer kitchen with an air pneumatic system for the table attached to the counter. A remote control puts the table up and down. They also put LED lights hidden around the metal counters and cabinets. 

“It’s such a broad spectrum of everything we do. We can do your wife’s kitchen and then we’ll do your husband’s hot rod,” he said. “I love working with metal and I love extreme sports.” 

Last week, HGTV stopped by and filmed for an episode of one of its home decorating shows. “Home design wasn’t something I planned to get into,” Zajac said. 

A lot of their work is word of mouth referrals. They do many road calls and do service installations. Not sure if they can do a job? Call them. Appointments can be made for design projects by calling the shop.  Once the store opens they will be there between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Weekends will be by appointment. For more on what they offer, call 892-7506 at the shop, 207-891-7680 for Zajac or email They are also on Facebook and have a website in development.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Flip to a Different Eagle Section

Business spotlight - Alliance - D/C/M - By Michelle Libby

Using state of the art BIM software, Alliance-D/C/M's in-house architect, Michael Pednault, can help save customers time and money on their building design projects from simple additions to new home construction with 3D design capabilities. 
“I can save my clients time and money by designing their home or addition in 3D before the shovels hit the dirt,” said Pednault, owner of Alliance-D/C/M. 

Alliance specializes in designing single family homes and additions, and does not offer commercial designs to remain dictated to our residential clients. The company started in 2013 and Pednault has had extensive experience in designing over 100 buildings in his professional career. He has a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree and is registered, licensed and certified as an architect in the State of Maine. 

With 3D modeling, customers can see the design in detail, instead of just traditional 2D drawings. “Any changes can happen before construction starts so there are no surprises,” he said. 

The design is in full color and clients can change paint colors, floor finishes, plumbing fixtures, window styles and sizes and different sidings and all of it can be changed on the fly. 

With traditional 2D design, it is hard for customers to visualize the finished product and for the architect to convey what is being designed. “Customers I’ve had have struggled to understand the design using 2D drawings; 3D allows them to see the actual building beforehand.”   

Clients interested in home design receive an initial consultation for free. They are asked to bring magazine clippings or online pictures showing their design ideas. Houzz is one website that clients use to determine what they like and don’t like. After the consultation there is a preliminary meeting to make changes. Then there is the pre-final design meeting, where the customer signs off before it goes into the construction documents phase. The software used also creates the 2D plans that contractors need to use for construction. 

Designs can be for a project as big as a 4,000 square foot home on Sebago to a small mudroom addition on a cabin. Alliance does design work for anyone in southern Maine. 

“I try to be very competitive. No one is offering this level of service in this area for these types of projects,” said Pednault. “We do not do commercial projects so we can devote more time to home design.” Specializing in residential builds for clients makes them experts in their field. 

Alliance also offers construction/contractor referrals for those who don’t already have a builder.  
Meetings are usually held at the job site or at the home of the client. “It’s more convenient for them and I can get a better idea of their design style.”

In addition to the 3D design services, Alliance also offers landscaping and property management services. Pednault is a phone call away from his clients. “Call me first before calling anyone else. We have all the equipment necessary to get the job done. If we don’t offer it, we can refer to someone who does,” he said. From mowing to property maintenance work, like cleaning gutters, power washing or brush removal, the company and its four employees will travel within a 15 mile radius of Windham. They also do mulching and spring clean ups. Digital estimates are always free on the property management services and work can be scheduled within two weeks typically. 

“No job is too big or too small on any of our service offerings,” Pednault said. From delivery of mulch to weekly mowing services, Alliance-D/C/M can handle it. 

“We offer a professional approach to all services we offer be it for design or the property maintenance side of the business. My entire crew is a team of professionals dedicated and diligent on every project,” Pednault said. “Customer satisfaction is top priority.” 

For more on Alliance-D/C/M or for a consultation, call 207-310-1707, visit, email or visit them on Facebook, Houzz or their YouTube channel

Friday, May 6, 2016

Flip to a Different Eagle Section

Business spotlight - Shamos Sealcoating - By Michelle Libby

Shamos Sealcoating & Pavement Maintenance has created a name for itself with the quality work and attention to detail they provide both their residential and commercial clients, providing longer life to paved driveways.

Andy Shamos started his sealcoating company when he was only 18 years old. It was his summer job and he was able to make it successful through his college years. Shamos was a special education teacher for five years, doing sealcoating during the summer until 2011, when he moved the company to fulltime.
“I enjoy it. I liked growing it so I stuck with it,” Shamos said. Shamos Sealcoating now has 10 employees, the most they have had, which includes a fulltime office manager and a fulltime estimator. 

His crews work on patching, sealing, crack filling and line striping anything from a small path to a 100,000 square foot commercial parking lot. With the home base in Standish, Shamos works from Kennebunk to Brunswick and anywhere in York, Cumberland or Androscoggin Counties. 

“I like running my own company,” said Shamos. “There’s such a need for it.” In Maine, paved driveways take a beating with the cold weather. When cracks open up water gets in them and the cracks get bigger. “I like to go to a job site and see the transformation that happens in a day.” 

Shamos likes the physical aspect to the job as well as getting to know his employees. “I can really make a difference in people’s lives,” he said of those who work for him. “I have excellent people to work with and I trust them all. I respect and reward them.” 

It is not unusual that between the various crews they can do 8 to 18 driveways in a day with prep work (which is 80 percent of the work), doing the sealing and cleaning up. Eighty percent of their work is residential and they work on driveways Monday through Friday all spring and summer as long as Mother Nature cooperates. “Mother Nature is our queen of everything,” Shamos said. He watches the weather from his phone to make sure that storms don’t interfere with the work. 

Shamos is a value to the community and a benefit for the individual families from a convenience factor. If the homeowner doesn’t have the time or skills to do the sealing, they can rely on us while they go do something they enjoy like head to the beach or go play a game of golf. “You can hire us to come take care of it,” Shamos said. “The homeowner doesn’t have to worry about anything.” 

Shamos Sealcoating uses commercial grade sealer. If a client is looking for a professional who is insured, Shamos fits that bill. “It’s important to have good people around to take care of the clients,” he said. Because of that, he takes care of his employees with health insurance. 

Shamos Sealcoating does not do full scale paving, they are on the maintenance side, Shamos said. “We maintain once [the driveway] is installed.” They do however, work with multiple pavement companies and refer clients to the right paver. 

Driveways need to be maintained at least every three to five years to extend the life of the pavement. Once Alligator cracking begins there is a problem with the subbase of the pavement and it will have to be replaced. 

Shamos Sealcoating does have a solution for some of the cracks, and utilizes infrared patching, which recycles 80 percent of the pavement and mixes it with fresh hot mix to compact it back into the area, creating a new patch. The patch is 6 feet by 8 feet, but can be done on bigger spaces. There are no seams to open up because the pavement is thermally bonded. It’s much less expensive from a labor perspective, Shamos said. 

“Call us if you’re looking to get the best service for the best price. When comparing apples to apples, we do more for your dollar,” he said. Shamos Sealcoating warranties their work for a year of any defects. “We stand by our work.” They did over 800 jobs last summer and will return to 10 to “live up to the promise we made.”  In Maine, these values mean something, he said. “If you want quick and cheap, you aren’t our customers.” 

Shamos Sealcoating is offering a 10 percent discount when work is booked and completed before July 4th. It is their best price of the year. 

For more information or to receive a free estimate, call 1-800-DRIVEWAY, visit or call 207-749-7058.