Cracker Barrel set to open its first restaurant in Maine

Today, the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurant chain has locations in 41 states. On Monday, the Tennessee-based company will operate in one more: Maine.

At 6 a.m. Monday, Cracker Barrel will open its first Maine restaurant on Maine Mall Road in South Portland, near the Wyndham Hotel.
The company chose not have a grand opening ceremony, said spokeswoman Julie Davis. Instead, it is focused on making the first day a success.

“It’s a new store with new employees and new guests,” Davis said. “We just want to have great experience.”

On Friday, the company announced that the store’s retail manager will be Shaune Cook, who has 22 years of experience in the restaurant industry.

Davis said the location is about 10,000 square feet and includes a 2,100-square-foot store that will sell gifts and collectibles.

The restaurant will seat about 195 guests and will employ 125 to 150 full- and part-time staffers.

The company, founded in 1969, has nearly 600 locations.

Maine officials say budget in the black in first quarter

State officials say Maine’s budget was stable through the first quarter of this fiscal year.

They told the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that for the first quarter of fiscal 2010-11, General Fund revenue was 4.7 percent, or $26 million, over budget.

For September, sales and use taxes – especially from automobile sales – came in under projections. But individual income taxes came in over budget.

State economist Michael LeVert told the committee that Maine’s economy is growing very slowly.

Appeals court reverses pair of Conrad Black convictions

A federal appeals court on Friday reversed two of former media mogul Conrad Black’s 2007 fraud convictions, raising at least the possibility he won’t return to prison.

After serving two years of a 6 1/2-year sentence, Black was released earlier this year from a federal prison in Florida while his case was appealed.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago unanimously agreed that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling sharply curtailing so-called “honest services” laws meant the two fraud convictions had to be tossed.

But the ruling was only a partial victory for Black because the three-judge panel upheld two other convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice.

Merck’s income plunges 90 percent in third quarter

Merck & Co. posted a 90 percent drop in third-quarter profit on Friday due to large charges for its $41.1 billion acquisition of Schering-Plough Corp. last November and a legal reserve for a federal investigation.

Also, Merck had a $2.8 billion gain a year ago from selling its animal health business to win antitrust approval to buy Schering-Plough, which also makes veterinary medicines.

The world’s second-biggest drugmaker by revenue had net income in the quarter of $341.6 million, or 11 cents per share. That’s down from $3.42 billion, or $1.61 per share, a year earlier.

Ohio McDonald’s provides voting advice in paychecks

A handful of McDonald’s employees in Ohio received handbills in their most recent paychecks suggesting they vote for three Republican candidates.

“If the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels,” the insert said. “If others are elected we will not.”

The fast-food chain’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., quickly condemned the action by Canton franchisee Paul Siegfried, saying it violated company policy. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, the Democratic elections chief, said she was launching an investigation.