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This week’s edition!

Cowbell Grill & Tap


District Manager Andrew Cessario relaxes against the bar in the main room of the Cowbell Grill & Tap. 

Story and photos by Nathan Tsukroff, PortraitEFX

Chef, bartender, waiter . . . Andrew Cessario has done it all at the Cowbell Grill & Tap at 49 Lisbon Street, Lewiston, during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

District manager of the three Cowbell restaurants – the Lewiston restaurant, the Cowbell Burger Bar in Biddeford, and the Cowbell Wood-Fired Grill in Scarborough – Cessario has been working full time at the Lewiston location to help while the restaurants deal with the changes in restaurant attendance since mid-March. 

The restaurants are high-end burger establishments, owned by Alex Markakis with business partner Jim Albert, who also owns Jimmy the Greeks in Old Orchard Beach. 

The Cowbell Burger Bar in Biddeford has been open more than four years, while the Cowbell Grill & Tap opened in Lewiston in December 2018. The Cowbell Wood-Fired Grill in Scarborough had a grand-opening the beginning of March this, was shut down about within two weeks because of the pandemic, then had a grand re-opening in June when state restrictions were eased. 

Cessario said the Lewiston restaurant and bar did not have guests inside from mid-March through mid-June. Instead, they provided take-out and delivery for their 25 “craft” burgers and other foods. Delivery is through Uber Eats and DoorDash, he said. 

Right now, Cowbell Grill & Tap is allowed to have up to 50 people indoors, socially distanced, which is about half of their normal capacity. There is seating for up to 24 guests on the six tables outside. The original outdoor seating included just three tables, but the city of Lewiston has allowed Cowbell to use both sides of the wide sidewalk in front of the building, while leaving room for pedestrians up the middle. The other two restaurants are also seeing business at about half-capacity indoors, Cessario said. 

Takeout service was minimal before the pandemic, Cessario said, but has now expanded to around 40 to 50 percent of the restaurant’s business and “has really kept us afloat” financially during the pandemic. 

While the number of guests visiting in person is reduced, Cowbell in Lewiston has seen more guests in-person than expected, he said, perhaps because people are preferring to stay in the Lewiston area during the pandemic. 

The other Cowbell restaurants have also expanded outdoor seating. At the location in Scarborough, “We’re lucky enough to have already a 50-seat patio. But we also have a large lawn, so we’ve expanded to lawn seating,” Cessario said. In Biddeford, the Cowbell Burger Bar has expanded its sidewalk seating, and “we also have a five-table patio out back.” 

The shut-down of the restaurant had a big impact on staffing, as well. About three-quarters of the staff at all three restaurants are part-timers, which is typical for restaurants and bars. This created issues with staffing as the restaurants opened up again, since some workers preferred to collect the expanded unemployment benefits provided by the federal government. Now, staff members are returning to work, helping by taking orders in person and responding to requests for take-out and delivery. 

While the Lewiston location was closed to all but takeout and delivery, Cessario and another person were the only workers, answering phones, cooking, and responding to takeout requests. Staffing is back up to about 80 percent from the level before the pandemic, he said. 

Up to 8 people work in the kitchen during the week, prepping food, cooking, and readying the finished meals. Burgers are delivered with a branded “C” on the top bun. 

Tables and chairs are sanitized, and staff “are always wearing masks,” Cessario said. “We’re starting to see a rebound . . . more and more people coming out” to the restaurant. “Obviously, having a safe place, a sanitized place . . . allows for people to feel safe when they come in the building.”  

 “I’ve seen much more preference for outdoor seating, unless it’s raining out or oppressively hot,” he said.  

Cowbell Grill & Tap opened its bar area to guests when indoor seating was allowed in mid-June. Due to the current restrictions, there is seating for 10 guests at the bar, with appropriate social distancing. 

Despite the recent issues from the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurants have seen success to the point that the Cowbell group of restaurants “is definitely expanding,” Cessario said. “We’re looking at a couple of different markets, but yes, the goal is definitely to expand.” Markets are areas around a community, such as Lewiston or Biddeford or Scarborough, he said.

While several smaller restaurants in Portland have closed due to lost business during the pandemic, Cessario said that was due to the loss of tourists in that area. Much of the Old Port area of Portland sees crowds of visitors from cruise ships during the summer. The Lewiston and other locations are not as dependent on seasonal tourists, so business has rebounded with the lifted restrictions. 

The Lewiston Cowbell has actually seen more dine-in guests that last year, Cessario said. Instead of going to the beach or the mountains, people are staying in the area, he said. 

Cowbell’s “craft” burgers Have different toppings to go on different types of meat, such as Angus beef, waygu beef, 100-percent grass-fed beef, bison burgers, salmon, chicken, and the “Beyond Beef” vegetable burgers. Guests order their own burger on a selection of buns, cooked to order. 

Cowbell also sells 25 “craft” beers from micro breweries throughout southern Maine, mainly from the Portland area, Cessario said. The pandemic shutdowns have hurt breweries and beer vendors financially, due to the big loss in alcohol sales at restaurants.  

Click HERE to jump to the Cowbell of Lewiston website.

Out & About with Rachel Morin: A Fourth of July Parade in 2013


.   Robert Crosby, Lynn Derderian and Julia Crosby enjoyed the Strawberry Shortcake.

By Rachel Morin

During this Pandemic, we are adjusting to the many changes in our daily living.  We miss our Community Little Theatre, our Public Theatre, our Auburn Community Concert Band, our movie theaters, our Churches, Mosques and Synagogues, our Franco Heritage Center, our  Lewiston and Auburn Public Libraries and our holiday parades.             

This got me thinking of the Turner Parade of July 4, 2013. I have never seen a parade like it. Here are my memories of this  nostalgic event.

I joined my son, Gerry and his wife, Debbie of Turner, to see their town’s Annual Fourth of July Parade followed by events on The Green that they have been enjoying and raving about for years and I’m glad I did. It really was a great day. I felt as if I had stepped back in time to be a part of the camaraderie of a small country town.

VA Maine’s Caregiver Support Program Resource Fair

Veterans Administration (VA) Maine is hosting a Caregiver Support Program Drive-By Resource Fair to provide Veterans with information about VA and community programs. Veterans will be able to meet caregiver support staff and there will be promotional products and resource bags for Veterans and caregivers.

For questions, please contact Michelle Tancrede at (207) 623-8411 ext. 2969.

Preparing labs for the fall semester at CMCC

Chemistry instructors Haley Bullecks (left) and Maureen Edgerton working on a lab that can determine how much certain solids dissolve in water involving two types of filtration, gravity and vacuum.

Science instructors at Central Maine Community College have been busy preparing videos with step-by-step instructions to enable students to continue their lab work remotely in between their actual on-campus labs. Most lab science courses will be hybrid, combining online work with alternating on-campus labs. Safety protocols will be strictly observed at all times. The fall semester at CMCC opens August 31.

Out & About with Rachel Morin: A Fourth of July Parade in 2013

American Legion Post 111 Honor Guard led the parade with Veterans marching behind.

During this Pandemic, we are adjusting to the many changes in our daily living.  We miss our Community Little Theatre, our Public Theatre, our Auburn Community Concert Band, our movie theaters, our Churches, Mosques and Synagogues, our Franco Heritage Center, our  Lewiston and Auburn Public Libraries and our holiday parades.             

This got me thinking of the Turner Parade of July 4, 2013. I have never seen a parade like it. Here are my memories of this  nostalgic event.

I joined my son, Gerry and his wife, Debbie of Turner, to see their town’s Annual Fourth of July Parade followed by events on The Green that they have been enjoying and raving about for years and I’m glad I did. It really was a great day. I felt as if I had stepped back in time to be a part of the camaraderie of a small country town.

Over 1,000 spectators lined the street for the colorful parade and applauded as the American Legion Post 111 Honor Guard led the parade followed by a group of Veterans marching and a Veterans’ float. The parade’s participants included an impressive lineup of fire trucks and emergency vehicles from Buckfield, Canton, Greene, Leeds, Mechanic Falls, Turner and Wales.

     Floats, antique cars, horseback riders, horse-drawn buggies and wagons, children on bicycles and children walking, farm tractors of all models, sizes and vintages, and Kora Motor Corps vehicles added to the nearly hour-long parade.

Afterwards, crowds moved to “On the Green” to listen to the Strawberry Shortcake Band and enjoy a Strawberry Shortcake Social. Children played at outdoor games that had been set up for them. Ticket vendors sold raffle tickets for a trip to Italy and tickets to a July 27, 2013 Tour of Turner Gardens and proceeds were benefitting local community projects. A book sale at the Turner Public Library did a brisk business with proceeds  benefiting the library.

Buildings, housing the Dort Bigg Collection of stuffed animals from around the world, are opened to the public every Fourth of July for a free viewing. Many attendants viewed the huge collection.

Here are some of the dozens of pictures I took. I wish I could include the vintage cars, the tractors, the towns’ fire trucks, the many events after the parade, all depicting the beautiful town of Turner and its people.

Junction Bowl in Gorham adapts to COVID

Ben Smith in front of the outdoor patio area at Junction Bowl on Railroad Avenue in Gorham that features 10 tables for guests to enjoy proper social-distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Nathan Tsukroff, PortraitEFX)

Story and photos by Nathan Tsukroff, PortraitEFX

Going bowling is awesome! Except when it’s not allowed . . . Big parties are so much fun! Except when they aren’t allowed . . .

The Covid-19 pandemic sweeping around the world has put a real damper on fun across the country, and right here in Gorham at the Junction Bowl at 7 Railroad Avenue, just a couple of blocks off Main Street in the center of town.

Filling the ground floor of a building that was constructed just over a year ago with the look of a classic train station, observation tower and all, Junction Bowl boasts 12 lanes of Ten-Pin bowling, an arcade, a small sports bar area, restaurant seating for more than 200 guests, and a smaller room for private parties or business meetings, complete with audio-visual equipment for presentations.

The second, third and fourth floors of the block-long building encompass 33 apartments, giving tenants easy access to the Gorham business district or the main roads for travel to Portland and surrounding towns.

Junction Bowl owner Ben Smith said, “We were very busy from the get-go,” after opening on November 18, 2019. “It wasn’t out of the ordinary to have 200 people or more here on a weekend night, and bowling going on all the time, and families here all day and all night.”

The facility also hosted children and adult birthday parties and corporate events. “And all of that is done,” Smith said. Junction Bowl closed its doors temporarily because of the pandemic just four months after opening, on March 15, 2020.

The bowling alley has reopened using alternate lanes, Smith said. Family groups are allowed, but they still can’t host the big children’s parties that were allowed before the shutdown. Other big groups are not allowed yet, either.

And local town recreation leagues that had planned to bring children to the bowling alley during the summer cancelled all their activities because of the pandemic.

Junction Bowl then provided curbside service, in anticipation of opening its doors for limited service inside starting June 1. That changed just a few days before June, so Junction Bowl “pivoted for outdoor dining,” Smith said. They scrambled to create an outdoor patio area, borrowing concrete barriers to protect the 10 picnic tables there were spaced along the road outside the building. Service was initially Thursday evenings, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings, but the easing of restrictions has allowed them to expand to lunch every day of the week.

Now opening at noon instead of the previous 11 a.m., “We’re just trying to figure our way back,” Smith said. “We couldn’t just turn the switch and be wide open again. I don’t think that worked for anyone. It’s a slow build-up of people’s confidence, and know that we’re open, even!”

Smith said he is promoting his business on social media, has started radio advertising again, and has live music on the weekends. Having the live music “has helped, because those performers all have their own networks that they send out to, so the word is building, it’s definitely building.”

The restrictions from the pandemic brought some interesting changes to the concept Smith had for his business. Last year, “I surely would not have said we’d have that (outdoor) patio, and be doing what we’re doing right now, which is we’ve kind of opened a whole new place out there, really. We’ve reinvented it . . . from the seating, to the lighting, to the way we service it.”

Bringing in the live music was part of that reinvention, Smith said, and was something that would not have happened without the pandemic. “And it’s turned into something that I’m going to keep and continue to do going forward. So, it’s a massive silver lining for us and I think it’s a good offering for the town.”

The building was built and is owned by Smith’s brother, Jonathan “Jon” Smith, the president of Great Falls Construction in Gorham. Jon’s wife, Cynthia, guided the design of the interior of Junction Bowl, creating multiple open spaces with classic elegance. The building has the look and feel of a building that has been in place for decades and fits well into the neighborhood of large commercial buildings.

The bowling alley at Junction Bowl features automated pinsetter machinery manufactured by the Brunswick Bowling company. Smith said he spent a week at the factory learning how to run and maintain the machines.

Behind the wall at the end of each pair of alleys is a single automatic pinsetter machine that captures pins for resetting and feeds the bowling balls onto a conveyer belt that runs them back to the bowlers. The six machines are fully automated. Smith uses a large flat automated lane-cleaning machine to prep the wooden alley surfaces. Junction Bowl is the only bowling alley in the Gorham area, Smith said, filling a gap left when another bowling alley closed many years ago.

The pandemic brought changes to the staffing of Junction Bowl as well, according to Smith. While he took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, some staff members decided not to return as the business started to reopen. The staff who remain helped bring in family members, creating a close-knit group of workers.

The outdoor patio features picnic tables with large umbrellas, properly separated for appropriate social-distancing. All staff members wear masks and follow safety protocols, and guests are asked to wear masks unless seated at one of the tables. Smith said “I think I’ve lost 15 ‘Covid pounds’” from walking up and down the patio to serve his guests. Smith said he has had concessions from his brother for the property rent these past months, and he sees business continuing to improve as the state allows businesses to expand their reopenings.

Senior dogs at GAHS Fetch grant

Old dogs have something to wag about this summer, as The Grey Muzzle Organization announces the recipients of its annual grants, and dogs at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society (GAHS) are among the winners.    

GAHS in Lewiston is one of sixty-four animal welfare groups chosen from two hundred eighty-eight applicants to receive a grant to help local senior dogs. The winning groups received more than $510,000 in grants to help save or improve the lives of at-risk old dogs in their communities. 

“Senior dogs deserve the best in life but often need extra medical care, which can be a strain on shelter resources that are already stretched thin. We are so thankful for the Grey Muzzle Organization, for supporting us to help senior dogs thrive in our community” said Katie Lisnik, Executive Director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. “This grant helped us give senior dogs like 8-year-old Wanda, the veterinary and dental care she needed; so she is now ready to go to her forever home,” said Lisnik. “No one is more grateful or loving than an old dog, and we’re looking forward to helping more senior dogs get the second chance they all deserve.”

Over the past twelve years, the national nonprofit Grey Muzzle Organization has provided $2.5 million in grants to support its vision of “a world where no old dog dies alone and afraid.”

“Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we’re delighted to help deserving organizations like the GAHS make a difference in the lives of dogs and people in their communities,” Grey Muzzle’s Executive Director Lisa Lunghofer said. “Many senior dogs in Androscoggin County are enjoying their golden years in loving homes thanks to the wonderful work of GAHS.”

The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society provides a safe haven for over 3,500 sick, homeless and abused animals in the greater Androscoggin area per year. The primary support for the Shelter comes from fundraising events and donations of concerned citizens.

The Humane Society is located at 55 Strawberry Avenue in Lewiston. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering at the shelter or adopting an animal call the Shelter at (207)783-2311 or visit the website at www.SavingPetsInMaine.org. You can also join them on www.facebook/GAHumane.

The national nonprofit The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit groups nationwide. For details, please visit www.greymuzzle.org https://www.greymuzzle.org 

Wanda is a sweet senior gal available for adoption at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. For more information, please visit www.SavingPetsInMaine.org or call: 207-783-2311.

Dr. Cynthia DeSoi, MD Joins the Team at Androscoggin

Dr. Cynthia DeSoi, MD

Androscoggin Home healthcare and Hospice welcomes Dr. Cynthia DeSoi, MD as staff physician for their home healthcare, hospice and palliative care programs. DeSoi most recently served as a Nephrologist at Nephrology Associates of Central Maine where she established multiple outpatient satellite clinics in rural Maine and provided leadership in quality and safety initiatives in many inpatient and outpatient settings throughout the state of Maine. DeSoi’s training and experience in adult and pediatric management of serious illness has resulted in very high regard by her colleagues and patients alike.

DeSoi earned a B.A. in Biochemistry from Mount Holyoke College, graduating Magna Cum Laude. At Mount Holyoke College she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, awarded prizes in Chemistry, French, and English, and was also both a Sarah Winston Scholar and Mary Lyon Scholar. In 1985 DeSoi earned her M.D. from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Rochester, New York. She completed her Internship and Residency in the Combined Medicine and Pediatrics Program at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics where she also served as Chief Resident and Instructor in Pediatrics. DeSoi also served as a Clinical Research Fellow, Section of Nephrology, at the University of Chicago from 1990-1991. DeSoi is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Nephrology.

     “We are so very pleased and honored to have Dr. DeSoi join our dynamic clinical team at Androscoggin” said Kenneth Albert, R.N., Esq., President and CEO. “Beyond her exceptional medical expertise, Cynthia’s lifework is authentically rooted in service to others. This aligns beautifully with our mission and values. I am particularly pleased that our patients and their families will be the real beneficiaries of our collaboration with Dr. DeSoi.”

DeSoi’s nearly three decades of experience includes an exemplary commitment to the health and wellbeing of Maine people. “I’ve cared for many patients and their families as they face serious and sometimes incurable illness, and have often not been able to deliver good news. What I’ve learned is that what matters most is often not the number of degrees, or credentials on your wall, or how smart you are, but simply listening, caring, and letting the patient know that no matter what, you will be there for them” wrote Dr. DeSoi upon joining Androscoggin.  “I believe this is a sacred relationship that can provide healing, even when cure cannot be offered. Providing care from the heart is what Androscoggin is all about, and why I wanted to be a part of this amazing organization.”  

Androscoggin Home Healthcare and Hospice is the largest, non-profit independent home health and hospice organization in the state. We focus on health – not illness – by making each individual’s quality of life the best it can be. To learn more about Androscoggin, including employment and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.androcoggin.org or call the Marketing and Development Office at (207)777-7740 ext. 1311.

Community Concepts welcome new finance director

Laura Gormley

Community Concepts’ Chief Financial Officer Laura Gormley is pleased to announce Sadie Reinhard has been promoted to the Director of Finance. Reinhard has been in the Finance department since 2015 and most recently was the Associate Director of Finance. She has experience in financial reporting, forecasting, cost models, analyzing budgets and process improvement. Reinhard has a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Thomas College where she was also inducted into the Alpha Chi National Honor Society and earned the Thomas Scholar Award. Reinhard also holds certificates in the Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Guidance training and other not-for-profit finance courses.

Service dog needs surgery – plea for funding assistance

Diamond Accompanying Pam During at a Hospital Stay

Pam Whittier, of Auburn, has shed lots of tears since her service dog’s recent vet visit. The news was not good.  Diamond, a 5-year-old American Pitbull, is in urgent need of TPLO surgery (tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy), on her hind legs. Diamond’s ACL, meniscus, and fibula are currently impacted. The roadblock to get Diamond healthy is cost — $5,000 for the surgery. Whittier, who is cardiac disabled, cannot afford the surgery. 

Whittier, is a 38-year-old cardiac arrest survivor, has cardiomyopathy, tachycardia, and an implanted defibrillator.  She got Diamond as a rescue four days after her father passed away of the same heart disease in May of 2015. Diamond was then trained and certified as Whittier’s service dog. Since then, Diamond has been a lifeline for Whittier and is able to tell family members when Whittier’s heart rhythm is “off.” Whittier has had numerous cardiac procedures both locally and in Boston.

Whittier, who is completely devastated at the thought of losing Diamond, is currently spending her days cuddling and patting her. Diamond is being kept comfortable with pain medication, but the vet told Whittier that the medication cannot be used long-term, as they could negatively impact her vital organs.

A yard sale with proceeds to benefit Diamond’s surgery is being held August 8 and 9 at 114 Howe Street in Auburn from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. A Go Fund Me page has also been set up at gf.me/u/yifzwdWhittier notes, “We are praying for a miracle, and I am so grateful for anyone who can help me save Diamond. If my tears could save her, she would be in good shape by now.  Besides her hind legs, she’s in wonderful shape, and I need her so much as a support for what I endure with my heart. I cannot imagine my life without her.”


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