For over 150 years the corner of East Elm and Main Street has been the gateway and anchor of the Yarmouth Village. For the past 77 years it has been a Village Store that locals affectionately refer to as “Handy Andy’s.”
In March, Sean Ireland and two local partners purchased the store. Their vision was to embrace and build on the best of Handy Andy’s and to expand the business model in a manner that allowed for significant investment in the infrastructure – which was badly needed. “The store was really ‘tired’ and needed a lot of love. As locals we appreciated what the store meant to the community and saw so much potential,” said Ireland.
Ireland’s vision was to create a unique multipurpose business model that honored the distinct character of the Village, while meeting the growing needs of a community that appreciates quality goods and services.
He wanted to partner with friends and family to bring the best of the greater Portland experience to the Yarmouth Village. He and his cousin, Amy Ireland, reached out to over 30 local businesses. Amy embraced the process. “We had so much to learn,” she said. “Over the course of five months Sean and I met with dozens of business owners. We were eager to learn about their businesses and to share our vision for the project. On the whole, everyone was really supportive and excited about what we wanted to do. Timing and compatibility with regard to approach and branding were huge factors in our conversations and what would make the ultimate partnership.”
Sean agreed. “We didn’t know where we would land but we were really passionate about the project and that resonated with folks. It wasn’t just about opening a successful business. It was about being true to the sense of place and the people and really enjoying and embracing the partnerships – and we think we’ve hit a home run.”
In June, Handy’s Store will reopen as a Village Market/Grocer, Café, and Gourmet Pizza. Amy Ireland will run the Village Market/Grocer, Guy and Stella Hernandez of Hill Top Café and Lolita will operate the Café, and Mike Keon and Anthony Allen, founders of OTTO, will be serving up salads and gourmet pizza.
“We really liked Amy and Sean’s vision for the project. We thought it was really important that we embrace the Handy Andy’s brand and that customers have a ‘seamless’ experience, so it was easy for us to fold the Café into the overall brand. We have two very distinct experiences in Portland and we wanted this project to stand on it’s own as well,” stated Stella Hernandez, co-owner along with her husband, of Hiltop Café, located on the East End in Portland. The Café will serve local ice cream, coffee, espresso, tea, sandwiches and soups, as well as fresh baked breads and other goodies.
Ireland thought long and hard about bringing more pizza to Yarmouth, but after hundreds of conversations with folks in the community and lots of positive feedback, he was confident there was room for gourmet pizza – which didn’t exist north of Portland. OTTO was a likely choice and after the first meeting both parties left feeling like this could be a great partnership.
“We weren’t necessarily looking to expand,” stated Anthony Allen, co-founder and owner of OTTO. “When Sean approached us, we were a bit hesitant, but really intrigued by the uniqueness and the partnership opportunity of the project. When we learned more about the history of Handy Andy’s and what it has meant to the Village and Yarmouth – we just fell in love with it. We’re really excited about becoming a part of the community.”
Phase two construction will include a Post and Beam Carriage House that will seat approximately 30-35 people and will include a ‘Community Board Room’ on the 2nd floor for use by individuals and organizations. Construction will begin in September and be completed in November.
A vision shared by all parties is that Handy Andy’s will continue on for the next 150 years. As a place that embraces the best of the past. A place where generations continue to mix easily. A destination that still prefers walking and riding to driving. And finally, a place that locals will likely still affectionately refer to as “Handy Andy’s.”