Aurora Provisions, a popular gourmet foods retail shop and cafe on Portland’s West End, is closing in order to focus on its catering business, owner Melissa Carr says.

The cafe and market, located at 64 Pine St. next door to Chaval restaurant, will close its doors on Sept. 1, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, she said. Carr has owned Aurora Provisions for just a little over one year.

“We did not come to this decision easily or hastily,” she said in a prepared statement. “Like many of our peers in the food industry, we’ve had our share of challenges and have had to face difficult economic realities, but we are proud to say we’ve done so head-on, with a goal to ensure Aurora’s longevity, which is ultimately what we are doing with this transition.”

Carr said the cafe staff will be given the opportunity to join the catering side of the business as seasonal employees, “though we respect some may pursue opportunities elsewhere and are arranging outplacement services through the Maine Department of Labor. This is a talented team, and we hope to keep it together.”

The number of people who will lose full-time jobs is unclear, and Carr did not immediately return calls Wednesday night.

Carr plans to continue to run the catering business out of the same location “for as long as we can continue to earn your patronage,” according to the prepared statement.


Aurora Provisions, whose tag line is “beautiful food for busy people,” has been known over the years for its elegant prepared foods and kicked-up casual fare, such as fresh mozzarella sandwiches on focaccia and rich, decadent macaroni and cheese. The catering side of the business fed runners in the Beach to Beacon road race this month.

The shop has been a fixture on the West End for more than 20 years. Founded by Norine Kotts and Cheryl Lewis in March 1997, Aurora Provisions started as a small neighborhood market and cafe that was unlike anything else in Portland at the time. In 2001, Kotts and Lewis sold it to Marika Kuzma Green, and they credit her with growing the business substantially through its catering division. Carr purchased the building and the business in May 2017. According to city tax records, the building sold for just over $1.8 million.

Carr previously owned The Market Basket in Rockport and Dot’s in Lincolnville, a spot that she has said was modeled in many ways after Aurora Provisions.

Both Kotts and Lewis said they were “really sad” to hear the news.

“I feel really sad that it’s not going to be there in that community,” Kotts said.

Lewis noted that “it’s not easy” for a food business to compete in Portland right now, with profit margins “really tight” and under 2 percent unemployment. Like many Portland restaurants, Aurora Provisions has struggled with staffing. The retail shop and cafe had been closed on weekends all this summer so the staff could focus on catering for the wedding season.


“This is a tough market in general,” Lewis said. “Right now, it’s really tough to do business and stay solvent.”

Kotts said when she and Lewis founded Aurora Provisions, they were inspired by neighborhood food stores like Micucci’s Grocery on India Street and Pat’s Meat Market on Stevens Avenue. They “wanted to capture some of the feel of what it was like to shop there. That sense of community that you got when you went into those stores definitely influenced us.”

She added: “It’s a mystery to me how it could go from extraordinarily popular to not working.”

Rosemont Market opened one of its neighborhood grocery stores just down the street from Aurora Provisions in 2015, but Lewis, for one, doubts that hurt the business, as Aurora’s bread and butter, she said, was its catering side.

Green, who now lives in Rockport and works part time for Maine Street Meats, seconded that, adding that Rosemont, to her surprise, never hurt her bottom line. Green said she sold Aurora because she was ready to retire and her husband was ill. As for the cafe closing just a year later, she’s “sad about it, of course.”

“It was an institution, and I’m very proud of being at the helm for 16 years, and very proud of my staff,” she said.


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