WESTBROOK – The French Press Eatery, a popular cafe in downtown Westbrook, has closed just one month after expanding to a 55-seat restaurant with a bar.
One of its owners said a weak economy and a lack of events downtown contributed to the cafe’s demise. City officials said they will work with the owners to help the business reopen.
The French Press, known for its homemade doughnuts and specialty coffee, closed on Saturday, three days after the owners held a grand reopening to celebrate their expansion.
James Tranchemontagne, a co-owner, said he ran out of money to keep the business going. The expansion cost an estimated $130,000.
“We have known for the last two months that it was touch and go,” he said. “It’s a wicked bummer. Food is my life. It’s everything you put your heart and soul into. For it to fail it’s hard.”
The French Press, owned by Tranchemontagne and his wife, Heidi, along with his younger brother, Andre Tranchemontagne, opened in November 2009. The Tranchemontagnes also own the popular Frog and Turtle restaurant, around the corner on Bridge Street.
James Tranchemontagne said both of his businesses had sharp decreases in sales in June and July. For more than two months, the Tranchemontagnes looked for a business partner to help them keep the cafe open.
Some downtown business people who frequented the cafe were disappointed Wednesday to hear about its closure. Stacy Darkis, who owns Studio 59 Pilates Fitness at 861 Main St., said she went there often for coffee, breakfast and lunch.
“I absolutely loved it and my clients loved it,” she said. “I’m not happy about it closing. It draws a higher class of clientele to this area. It gets people on foot walking by and they see the signs, including mine. Foot traffic is huge here.”
Dan Nemphos, a manager of the nearby T-Mobile Wireless Champs store, said he went to the cafe at least twice a week. He said he loved the food and the atmosphere.
“It’s disheartening,” Nemphos said. “It could be a potential gold mine for the district.”
The 55-seat restaurant is being advertised on Craigslist for $92,000. The ad says Tranchemontagne will also consider a partnership.
Keith Luke, Westbrook’s director of economic development, said the city is looking forward to working with the Tranchemontagnes to find a partner to reopen the restaurant.
“I like to believe that James and Andre were close to making it work,” he said. “There is a market for that type of product here. Every neighborhood in Portland seems to support a coffee shop. There is nothing different about Westbrook. That’s what makes it frustrating.”
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: