Co-owners Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez of The Ugly Duckling, a new bakeshop and lunch spot that opened this week on Danforth Street. Photo by Tim Cebula

After being delayed for months by pandemic-related issues, The Ugly Duckling bakeshop and luncheonette opened this week in Portland’s West End.

Located at 246 Danforth St., The Ugly Duckling launched Tuesday with a limited menu and abbreviated hours. The shop will be open Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon, then reopen next week, Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Owners Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti, who also own Chaval, expect to expand their operating days and hours gradually over the coming weeks so the Ugly Duckling will eventually be open five days a week until 6 p.m.

“We have been working nonstop, and I don’t want to overwork the team, that wouldn’t be fair,” said Lopez, explaining the reasoning behind opening in stages.

The menu features Lopez’s house-made buttermilk English muffins in a variety of flavors, including rye and caraway, golden raisin and cinnamon, and “everything” seasoning. Also available are pastries like trocaderos and pastel de natas, breakfast sandwiches, a pastrami sandwich on rye muffin, and coffee and espresso from Speckled Axe. Ugly Duckling also has a full liquor license.

Lopez and Sansonetti originally had hoped to open Ugly Duckling in June. But global supply-chain issues gummed up their progress, adding a 20-week wait for a stove, among other headaches.



Big Sky Bread Company is under new ownership, following owner and co-founder Martha Elkus’ decision last month to step down after 29 years running the business.

“In January 2023, after searching for the right person, I sold the bakery to a great guy named Joe Rank,” Elkus’ statement on the Big Sky Facebook page reads in part. “He is a neighbor and long-time customer who is committed to our signature products and all the things that make Big Sky a very special place. At the same time, he has the energy, skills, and vision to make sure Big Sky stays strong for the next 30 years.”

Rank is a career food and beverage industry professional who most recently was plant manager for specialty food company Schlotterbeck & Foss in Westbrook. Before that, he’d been operations manager at Shipyard Brewing Co.

“I was looking for a business like Big Sky, and I was very grateful for the opportunity,” said Rank, a Big Sky customer for more than 20 years. “I love the product. I’m honored to continue what Martha started, and hoping to be as successful as she has.”

Elkus and her late husband launched Big Sky in 1994 in the former Woodfords Corner firehouse at 536 Deering Ave.


Rank said he has no plans for near-term changes at Big Sky. “But I am hoping to expand the wholesale opportunities we already have so more people can enjoy Big Sky bread,” he said.


An ownership team including two Portland bar professionals aims to open the Portland Distilling Co. on Walton Street this year.

Adam Sousa and Caleb Landry, co-creative directors at Blyth & Burrows, have partnered with Matt Brown to launch the new distillery at 135 Walton St. in a 3,000-square-foot space now under construction. Sousa and Landry said they hope the production facility will be up and running by early fall.

Portland Distilling Co. will start its product line with Goldie’s Cocktail Gin, a London dry-style gin similar to Plymouth or Beefeater. From there, they expect to develop a vodka, then they’ll consider making other spirits as well.

Sousa and Landry said they will be able to produce as much as 10,000 gallons of spirits a year, roughly amounting to more than 50,000 750-milliliter bottles.


Sousa and Landry noted how in the world of craft beverages like beer and spirits, products have become increasingly varied and even complicated – touting unique or unusual flavor profiles – in an attempt to distinguish themselves from competition. But the singular flavors in these beverages can limit their appeal, often causing them to be sidelined in favor of more versatile products.

The Blyth & Burrows vets said they aim to keep their Portland Distilling Co. products more classic and simple. “I think there is beauty in simplicity,” Sousa said. “The classic style of London dry gin is classic for a reason.”


Portland restaurant and craft cocktail bar The Danforth made the Imbibe 75 List, Imbibe magazine’s annual rundown of the most influential people and places in the beverage world.

The Danforth opened in the West End in July in the space previously occupied by Little Giant. The venue was the latest addition to the stable of Gin & Luck, parent company of spirit world heavyweight Death & Co., which has craft cocktail bars in Manhattan, Los Angeles and Denver.

“The company’s COO, Alex Day, says they hope the mix of casual and fancy, both in the bar’s design and in the menu offerings, will foster the idea that the Danforth is ‘the kind of bar and restaurant casual enough for a stop by, but meaningful enough for a special celebration,’ ” part of Imbibe’s writeup of The Danforth states.



Farm Store, a new online hub for Maine farmers markets, aims to make online ordering and purchasing available at markets throughout the state this year.

The Farm Store site, at, had a limited launch last summer. Bangor-based Farm Store founders Steve, Terri and Michael Sleeper started the site so customers of their business, Mediterranean Cuisine by TS, could purchase their products more conveniently.

Farm Store allows customers to search items online, place an order directly with the vendor and pick up their purchase in person at the farmers market. The process also helps prevent disappointment when customers arrive at a farmers market to find the items they wanted from particular vendors have already sold out, Terri Sleeper said.

The Sleepers currently have about half a dozen vendors from various area farmers markets signed on to their site. Farm Store is free to use for both vendors and customers, and Steve Sleeper said they will provide vendors with all necessary tech support to get their inventories added to the site.

“The software is ready to handle the whole state of Maine. We really want to grow this thing,” he said, noting that they hope to add as many as 100 vendors to the site in the coming months.

At the same time, Sleeper added that they don’t want to hurry the process, and would rather make sure the site works as it should.

“We’re not in any big hurry,” he said. “We want to make sure the online experience is fabulous and flawless.”

This story was updated at 9:22 a.m. Feb. 15 to correct the name of the online hub for farmers markets.

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