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Vegetable Corner site’s new owners plan to open seasonal market, cafe in Harpswell

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Seasonal residents Katie Rollins and Joe Cheuvront have purchased the former Vegetable Corner site at Harpswell Neck and Mountain roads for an undisclosed sum. They plan to open a seasonal market, bakery and cafe. Photo courtesy of Katie Rollins and Joe Cheuvront

The new owners of the former Vegetable Corner site in Harpswell at Harpswell Neck and Mountain roads say they plan to open a seasonal market, bakery and cafe called Corner Market with the eventual goal of making it a year-round business.

Married couple and part-time Harpswell residents Katie Rollins and Joe Cheuvront, also of Brooklyn, New York, closed on the property Oct. 24. Rollins has a background in finance and investment, while Cheuvront is a professional chef.

They envision a business that would be similar in many ways to the Vegetable Corner, a beloved Harpswell business that closed in September 2022 after decades of operation.

“I’m not a butcher like (former co-owner Raymond “Ray” Tetreault), but I’ve been working as a chef for my entire career, and I’d like to be able to offer a lot of different baked goods, grocery items, maybe some prepared foods,” Cheuvront said in a phone interview. “I understand the fish chowder was a big hit, and so I’d like to maybe try to do something similar to that for everybody.”

Rollins and Cheuvront said they plan to open Corner Market by next Memorial Day and will likely operate seasonally from May to September. They hope to attract students as seasonal workers or interns by offering them a chance to learn culinary skills on the job.

The couple said their long-term goal is to make Corner Market a year-round business, if they’re able to recruit and retain the needed staff.

Rollins said they would like to develop the business into more of a cafe with “Pammy’s (Ice Cream Parlor)-style” outdoor seating, but that doing so would require working with the town to mitigate potential traffic issues at what, for Harpswell, constitutes a major intersection.

“That involves rezoning with the town, and we have to think about the footprint of the parking lot,” she said. “The town doesn’t love where that entrance and exit is, and it causes a lot of traffic, so there’s some things to navigate, but that would be the growth plan down the line, is to kind of evolve it a little bit.”

The new owners declined to say how much they paid for the property, at 509 Harpswell Neck Road. The site was listed for sale in July for about $1.1 million and includes a home and the adjacent business on a corner lot just shy of one acre.

Its former owners, Violet and Ray Tetreault, died less than a week apart on Jan. 28 and Feb. 3 respectively, just a few months after closing the market and celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

“We are selling the property with a heavy heart, but we will take the many memories that came from here,” Mary Evitts, one of the late couple’s seven children, wrote at the time in a heartfelt letter to the community. “We look forward to seeing what will come next on the special corner that brought so much to this special town I will forever call home.”

The Vegetable Corner got its start about 35 years ago when Violet Tetreault, with daughters Mary and Hannah, sold corn on the cob and strawberries under umbrellas on their front lawn. It was son Peter who gave the market its name.

For many years, it had been a regular stop for residents and visitors who bought not only produce and Ray Tetreault’s prime cuts of meat, but also chicken, fish, scallops, Scottish salmon and grocery items. It was the epitome of a family business, with the Tetreaults’ children and grandchildren often helping out.

Rollins said she grew up in Bowdoin and has close ties to the area. Her father spent nearly 40 years as a Mt. Ararat High School history teacher and still lives in Bowdoin, she said.

Rollins bought a home in Harpswell about 12 years ago and said she has lived there seasonally, as well as full time while on maternity leave and during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. She met Cheuvront two years after buying the house.

Taking over the Vegetable Corner site is daunting, Rollins said, especially with so many people in the community expressing strong opinions about what sort of business they should open. But it’s also the realization of a longtime dream for Rollins and Cheuvront, she said, adding that they aim to respect what came before while tweaking the formula to suit their particular skills and abilities.

“We want to be sure people know that we understand that this is a community spot, and we do feel this responsibility towards Harpswell and towards the community,” Rollins said.

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