Rabelais, the food-centric bookstore that helped bring national attention to Portland’s food scene, is moving to a new loft space in Biddeford’s North Dam Mill.

The owners of the store, Don Lindgren and Samantha Hoyt Lindgren, say they plan to shift their focus to the rare-book side of the business, which hasn’t grown as much as it could have simply for lack of space in their location at 86 Middle St. in Portland.

The new Rabelais will still be open for browsing, but public hours will be much more limited.

The Lindgrens, who live on a farm in Alfred, said they shopped around Boston for a new store location, and even considered moving everything to Brooklyn. But in the end, they just couldn’t say goodbye to the place that has become their home.

“We didn’t really want to leave Maine,” said Samantha Hoyt Lindgren. “We like Maine too much to do that. We looked at a number of more industrial spaces in Portland, but couldn’t find the combination of size and resources that we needed.”

Many of Rabelais’ antiquarian books are in storage, even though that part of the business has been growing. The store has the largest collection of rare cocktail books anywhere, for example, but no place to display them, or for collectors to peruse them.

The couple recently bought two new collections, and have established more business relationships with institutions that deal in rare books.

“At the same time, the sales of new books have been just kind of flat — not bad, but just not growing at the pace the antiquarian was,” Hoyt Lindgren said.

The new 2,700-square-foot space in Biddeford will include a kitchen where the couple can test recipes. The Lindgrens are often asked by publications to help choose cookbooks for annual roundups of the best titles, a task they are now working on for the national food magazine Bon Appetit.

“We need more ability to be able to sit down with those books and spend more time and cook out of them,” Don Lindgren said. “You know, there’s an awful lot of reviewing, but I think there needs to be a lot more attention given to the recipes themselves, and whether things really work or not, and you really can’t tell unless you sit down and cook out of them.”

It’s unlikely the kitchen will be used for public events, the Lindgrens said. Rabelais has been known for co-sponsoring appearances by well-known chefs and food writers at the Middle Street store and in local restaurants.

The Lindgrens said they want to remain “fully involved” in Portland’s food scene, but if they co-sponsor any events in the future it will probably be at a local restaurant or some other venue outside their business.

The lease at the Middle Street store runs until the end of February, but the Lindgrens say they will start moving books to the new space in the next couple of months. They will maintain a presence on Middle Street through the holidays, but will probably close that store toward the end of January. The new Biddeford store most likely won’t open until spring.

The Lindgrens said they will miss interacting with customers on a daily basis, many of whom became their friends, but they hope Maine foodies will keep up with them through the blog on Rabelais’ website, www.rabelaisbooks.com.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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