SOUTH PORTLAND — Thatcher’s Restaurant & Sports Pub, a dining and entertainment staple in the Maine Mall area for more than 20 years, will close April 22 unless a buyer steps forward to keep the doors open.
Owner Cynthia Boulay, a prominent Maine restaurateur for nearly 30 years, said she’s paring down her holdings in the face of growing challenges in an ever-changing market. The Keenan Auction Co. of South Portland is scheduled to auction a variety of furniture, lighted beer signs and other decor, food service equipment, big-screen TVs and other electronics at the restaurant, at 35 Foden Road, on April 26 at 10 a.m.
“I’ve been here for 14½ years and I can’t afford to keep it going anymore, physically or financially,” Boulay said Tuesday. “We had our day here, when it was packed every day, and it can be again. I’m just running out of steam and good help has been difficult to find lately.”
Boulay, who lives in Old Orchard Beach, said she’s been working six days a week in Thatcher’s kitchen because she can’t find dependable kitchen workers, and she spends the seventh day doing paperwork. She also owns the Time Out Sports Pub in Westbrook, which she plans to continue operating, she said.
Boulay has owned several restaurants in southern Maine through the years, starting with the original Thatcher’s, in the Auburn Mall. She bought the restaurant in 1990 after working there for two years. She sold it several years later and it remains open.
She opened a second Thatcher’s in Windham in 1992. She later sold it, and that restaurant has since closed. She opened a third Thatcher’s in the Maine Mall in 1994.
At one time, Boulay was running four restaurants at the same time, including Kinicky’s on Congress Street in Portland. She also operated eateries in Old Orchard Beach and elsewhere.
When Thatcher’s lease in the Maine Mall ran out in 2003, Boulay found that her home-grown company no longer fit the mall’s increasingly corporate business model, she said. So she moved the restaurant to its current location on Foden Road, closer to medical offices, retailers and manufacturers along Western Avenue.
With a dance floor, a game room, event space, outdoor seating and plenty of parking, she expanded the business to host local bands and cater special events. The menu features classic sports pub appetizers, salads and entrees such as Mediterranean chicken and seafood stuffed haddock.
Recently, hiring workers who show up when they’re scheduled has been a problem, Boulay said, and learning how to promote her businesses on Facebook and other social media has been a challenge. In addition, several large specialty restaurants have opened nearby.
She believes a new owner would bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm to the business, including menu changes and social media promotions that would renew interest in the restaurant and the events held there.
If Thatcher’s isn’t sold before the auction, Boulay said, she hopes to take her few dedicated staff members with her to Time Out in Westbrook. Potential buyers have shown some interest, she said, but unless someone makes a serious offer soon, the April 22 performance by Color Blind, a local funk and rhythm-and-blues dance band, will be a farewell party.