BATH — Three years ago, even before opening in Portland’s Monument Square, Michaela McVetty set out to build a sandwich empire.

With a second Sisters Gourmet Deli now planned to open this summer in Bath, she’s one step closer to doing just that.

“We’ve always talked about a second location,” McVetty, a 28-year-old dynamo who divides her time between this Portland and the one in Oregon, said in an interview March 15 a few hours before the lunch rush.

After realizing 2 1/2 years had flown by since the first deli opened, McVetty said she declared “it’s time to get on this” and started scouting for new locations. She and her business partners, Alex Brookings and Bill Zolper, first set their sights on nearby places like South Portland, before opportunity struck 34 miles north.

“(Bath) was not even on the radar,” McVetty said.

But then she learned of the closing last month, after nearly 40 years, of the much-acclaimed Sandwich Shop at 45 Vine St., due to the retirement of owner Jerry LaRochelle.

“For me, this is much more of an emotional venture,” McVetty said. “There is never going to be a replacement (of the Sandwich Shop). … They are so well loved, the community is obsessed with this place.”

Since completing the purchase of the Sandwich Shop space March 8, McVetty and her business partners have started on renovations. She said passersby loyal to LaRochelle often stop by to ask about the future operation.

“They go, ‘what are you doing in here,'” McVetty said. “I say, ‘sandwiches,'” to which they respond ‘Oh, thank God.’ I get that 10 times a day.”

Passing the torch

McVetty said some visitors have told her they’ve worked in the city for 40 years and would stop at the Sandwich Shop every morning for coffee. Sisters Gourmet will open at 5 a.m. weekdays to accommodate the crews from neighboring Bath Iron Works, who usually filled the old place by 5:15 a.m.

Doors will open at 7 a.m. on weekends, and the deli will close at 8 p.m. seven days a week. Deliveries to BIW will continue.

Likely adding to the relief of longtime Sandwich Shop customers will be the continued employment of four workers, including two of LaRochelle’s daughters.

“It’s very good vibes,” McVetty said. “It was a very happy pass-off.”

The Bath location will have indoor seating for 16-18 people, and will feature many of the favorites on the Portland deli’s menu. The new eatery will also retain the Sandwich Shop’s greatest hits.

“It’s going to be the perfect marriage of the two places,” McVetty said. “… It’s going to be an awesome blend of both menus.”

Tops among her offerings is the “Macintuscan,” a sandwich that includes turkey, crisp bacon, cheddar, sliced apple, honey mustard, and mixed greens.

“That’s like, hands down, our most popular sandwich, 10 times over,” McVetty said.

Sisterhood

McVetty, who has owned and operated restaurants in the Portland area for the past eight years, experienced what she called a “quarter-life crisis.” She said she decided three years ago that she needed a change of pace, and an actual day off here and there.

“We were all just best friends who hung out every day and cooked,” she recalled of the five women who started as staff and became family. They wanted to know what McVetty was doing next, and insurance and real estate were two options that she had in mind for 9-5, Monday-to-Friday jobs.

“I’m going to dress up, I’m going to look cute at work, no one’s going to call me on the nights and weekends, I’m not going to smell afterwards,” she said with a smile. “I’m going to have dates on Friday. This is going to be my new life.”

But when she found the vacant space at 15 Monument Square three years ago and fell in love with it, McVetty knew she’d been sucked back in.

“As soon as I stepped foot in it I was like ‘oh no, I’m taking it,'” she said.

“Michaela McVetty Sandwiches” was scheduled to launch, but the strength she received from her circle of friends inspired a different name: Sisters Gourmet.

McVetty has a rote answer for customers who ask whether they’re all actually sisters.

“Yes, we are really sisters,” she said. “Because ‘sisters’ means that you love each other unconditionally, that you support each other, that you empower each other.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Michaela McVetty, who opened Sisters Gourmet Deli on Monument Square in Portland in 2016, plans to launch a second location this summer in Bath.

Michaela McVetty is opening her second Sisters Gourmet Deli in Bath with help from people like Alex Brookings, one of her business partners. The Vine Street venue operated as the Sandwich Shop for nearly 40 years.

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