Two Freaky Bean coffee shops were closed last week, including the headquarters in Westbrook and one at The Gateway at Scarborough.

The company, which started with a shop on Route 1 in Scarborough in June 2006, expanded quickly in the past year and a half, opening a drive-through in South Portland, the second Scarborough location and the Westbrook shop.

Customers walking up to the shop on Main Street in Westbrook Friday were turned away by a sign explaining the location was closed due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

However, some say they saw trouble coming for the company, which is in debt to at least a couple of its vendors.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said John Naylor, owner of Rosemont Market and Bakery, which used to sell sandwiches and baked goods to some of the Freaky Bean coffee shops.

According to Naylor, Freaky Bean still owes him “a good few thousand dollars,” but he doesn’t have high hopes for seeing that money again.


“My expectations are slim to none,” he said.

Naylor said Freaky Bean dropped his business in favor of using The Baker’s Bench, a Westbrook bakery. However, a judgment was made in December in district court that Freaky Bean owes The Baker’s Bench nearly $13,000. Diane Totman, who owns the bakery with her husband Stephen, declined to comment on the suit.

Working on a computer from a back room in the Westbrook shop, where the phone is no longer in service, Gary Woodworth, an owner, wouldn’t comment on details Friday about why the two locations closed.

“The economy is tough for everybody right now,” he said.

Woodworth deferred all other questions to owner Jon Stratton, who didn’t return calls this week.

Stratton and co-founder Andy Kessler, once co-workers at a Starbucks in Portland, opened their first Freaky Bean coffee shop on Route 1 in Scarborough in July 2006 and the shop in Westbrook a year later. According to Woodworth, Kessler resigned from the company in November.


The company had been roasting its coffee at the Westbrook location, as well, but Woodworth wouldn’t comment on whether that’s still happening.

In the past year, the company added its second location in Scarborough and a drive-through shop in South Portland.

At the beginning of this year, the flagship store on Route 1 in Scarborough moved down the road to Bessey Square. That location and the South Portland drive-through remain open.

Freaky Bean bought Maine Roasters Coffee last year, but Woodworth said they are once again two separate companies.

The sign that remains on the closed Gateway shop still bears the Maine Roasters Coffee name. Woodworth said they’re working on getting it down.

Gene Beaudoin, president of New England Expedition, which owns The Gateway at Scarborough, said he’d warned the company early on that the Freaky Bean name wouldn’t work in a development that draws so much of its business from outside the area.


“They suffered terribly from brand recognition problems,” Beaudoin said.

However, adding the word “coffee” to their sign – which Beaudoin recommended – didn’t help enough. But Beaudoin said he wasn’t aware of the details about why that location closed so suddenly and plans to talk to the owners next week. He said he heard about the closure from The Gateway’s on-site manager, who read about it on signs on the door of the shop.

A lack of communication from the owners is something that Naylor said he experienced from his early dealings with the company.

“Once you start doing that, people stop having faith in you,” Naylor said, referring to the effect of a company being unresponsive to its vendors.

One of those vendors, however, might start recovering its losses with new business.

Cory Fleming, formerly a regular customer at the Westbrook Freaky Bean, said she’ll probably be going to The Baker’s Bench more often now.


Fleming and her friend Pamela Payson would stop at the coffee shop two or three times a week in order to warm up during their strolls down the riverwalk. They had just been in the shop on Thursday, and, Fleming said, there was no sign of it closing. But they returned Friday to locked doors.

“It’s a huge loss for the downtown,” said Fleming, who is also a member of the Westbrook Planning Board.

Fleming said the store created foot traffic downtown and was a “nice gathering point” for people. She said Payson used the free wireless Internet access during snowstorms.

“Any time you lose a business on Main Street, it’s hard,” Fleming said.

Keith Luke, economic and community development director for Westbrook, said the Main Street store is “a viable location for a coffee shop,” and believes the closing of the store has more to do with the company’s finances than the location in downtown Westbrook.

He said he’s confident that another similar company will move into that location.


“I hope soon,” Luke said.

Another Main Street coffee shop owner saw some immediate benefit from Freaky Bean’s closing – some of its customers came to him Friday morning to buy a coffee and pass on the news.

“It’s sad. I feel bad for the customers and bad for the employees,” said Mike Wowk, owner of the Daily Grind on Main Street in Westbrook.

As a fellow business owner, Wowk was sympathetic to the Freaky Bean’s troubles.

“It’s too bad when a small business that’s trying hard, people are trying hard to make a living, and tough times hit. It’s just unfortunate,” he said.

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