Arda Turac, left, and his wife, Elif Erkan, outside Zestea, their new coffee shop at 32 Main St. in downtown Freeport. The Turkish immigrants moved here in February from Florida after falling in love with Maine. Courtesy / Arda Turac

FREEPORT — For Arda Turac and his wife, Elif Erkan, coming to America 25 years ago was a new adventure. Now, the couple is starting another one, this time in Maine, running a new coffee shop in downtown Freeport.

“Every day is better than the day before,” Turac said, regarding the new venture.

Zestea, at 32 Main St., takes its name from the couple’s use of citrus zest in many of their products, which range from baked goods to coffee and tea drinks. The shop has only been open for about a month, Turac said, but the couple has found a steady stream of customers so far.

The interior of Zestea, a new coffee shop in downtown Freeport. It’s only been open a month, but owners Arda Turac and his wife, Elif Erkan, say it’s already a success. Image Courtesy / Arda Turac

Both are Turkish natives — Turac, 43, grew up in Istanbul, while his wife, who is the same age, grew up in the nearby community of Izmit. Turac had been working in his home city for an American publishing company, Globetech Publishing, when an opportunity arose in 2000 to bring him and Erkan, his then-girlfriend, to the company’s offices in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Both jumped at the chance, and he worked there for more than two decades as a production director, while Erkan took a job as a high school math teacher.

But Turac said after more than 20 years, they had grown restless, craving changes in their careers and surroundings. Being on the southern tip of Florida meant they faced hurricanes regularly enough to encourage them to relocate. Turac said the couple came to visit Maine in 2017, seeing much of the state on a road trip.

“We basically fell in love,” he said, regarding their impressions of Maine.

They quit their jobs and arrived in February 2020, with no idea what they were going to do next beyond the vague idea of starting a small mom-and-pop business. But the novelty of a new state proved inspirational.

Turac said the COVID-19 pandemic actually slowed the world down enough to give them a chance to think the idea through.

“We had a lot of time to brainstorm and come up with this idea,” he said.

One of the offerings at Freeport coffee shop Zestea is Borek, an Eastern European pastry. Image Courtesy / Arda Turac

Opening a coffee shop, Turac said, because he and his wife have always been “foodies.” Erkan, he said, has always liked baking, and she now runs the onsite bakery, while he serves as barista. The store’s menu will change regularly, but for now offerings include espresso and blended tea drinks, along with treats such as chocolate babka and the couple’s take on Borek, an Eastern European pastry. Much of the shop’s fare, he said, is a reflection of the food culture he and Erkan grew up with.

“All the recipes, they all have Turkish influences from our mothers and our grandmothers,” he said.

So far, Turac said, locals are taking well to the shop. At a time when the pandemic seems to be worrying some business owners, Zestea appears to be thriving among the locals.

“They embraced us fully,” he said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.