A number of downtown Westbrook businesses say they are out from under any economic stress they felt during the pandemic and expect a busy summer. At least one, though, is struggling with a new stressor: the closure of the Mechanic Street parking lot.

The Daily Grind and Daily Scoop, Frog and Turtle, Riverside Deli, Blaze’s Burgers and Legends Rest say business is strong and is expected to stay that way in coming months.

Business was also strong at Istanbul Restaurant and Bakery on the Westbrook Common until construction projects started last week, according to co-owner Sarem Al-Shawk. He did well through the pandemic because of his small core group of customers, he said Tuesday, but he estimates business has gone down 80% since the work began.

“It was picking up more and more, and then came the construction. It has gone down hill really bad,” Al-Shawk said. “We are so close to having to close because we are losing more than we are making. This is making it very hard on our business.”

The construction of a municipal parking garage on the Vertical Harvest complex and utility upgrades at Westbrook Common have temporarily closed Main Street for about a week in front of his business and, most significantly for Al-Shawk, the parking lot behind it, which is slated to remain closed for the duration of the Vertical Harvest and Parking Garage construction project.

Many of his customers are families who want loads of groceries, so crossing to the temporary parking lot across Main Street while carrying pounds of food with kids in tow is discouraging to patrons, he said.


“We are looking for community support,” Al-Shawk said. “People are welcome to come for a bite, too, we still have our restaurant. Gyros, kebabs, shwarma, you name it.”

Other businesses on Main Street are less impacted by recent construction closures.

“Business has been strong, though with construction on Main Street, we’ve seen a little slowdown,” said Joe Salisbury, co-owner of the Daily Grind and the new ice cream shop, the Daily Scoop.

The recent Together Days festival packed his shop, he said, and “We got the concert series in July (at Vallee Square). I think things are good.”

The Frog and Turtle restaurant is as busy as ever now, said co-owner Guy Cote, with their only challenge being staffing, which Cote does not relate to the pandemic.

“Through the pandemic, business was good,” Cote said. “For the past year or so, rather than limitations caused by COVID, it has been our staff. We fill the restaurants to the levels of staffing we have. We don’t have a shortage of reservations.”


Scheduled summer concerts and other activities throughout the city make Cote optimistic that the steady business will continue.

“Last year, the concerts in Vallee Square were a draw for us,” Cote said.”People enjoy having their dinner and listening to the music from the balcony.”

The Vallee Square concerts were among the city’s initiatives to help businesses during the pandemic. The city also helped businesses secure funding for outdoor seating areas, loosened outdoor eating restrictions and came up with a business promotion idea where residents could win prizes based on the number of receipts they collected from local businesses.

Both Blazes Burgers and River’s Edge Deli, former neighbors across from Riverbank Park, also report steady business throughout the pandemic, with River’s Edge even being more successful during the past two years.

“Our business went up 25%-30% during the pandemic,” owner Steve Lampron said. “We were crazy here. And we are still holding our customers and even hired two people in the meantime.”

From the beginning of the pandemic, Blazes Burgers, which recently moved to the former location of Jack’s Thai on Main Street, “didn’t skip a beat the whole time,” owner Alex Stone said.


“We stayed pretty solid, very supported. We moved to curbside pickup quickly in the process, which helped,” Stone said. At the same time, while I say we are doing well, I am very much looking forward to a year where we don’t have any type of COVID issues and are also not dealing with moving.”

He said he expects strong, steady business this summer.

Legend’s Rest Taproom, on the River Walk downtown, has had strong customer support, too, said co-owner Tom Minervino. A bump in business during Together Days is a good sign of things to come, he said.

“For us, as long as the weather stays good now, it’ll be good,” he said.

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