Farmington Businesses Work Through COVID-19 Together

Taylor BurkeContributing Writer

    Farmington’s essential businesses are working hard to serve their communities through the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), but since Maine Governor Janet Mills mandated the stay-at-home order, this hard work doesn’t come without challenges. 

    Franklin Printing, just five minutes away from UMF, has remained open because the customers they serve are part of essential industries. “The two general categories we service are medical supplies and food packaging,” said David Nemi, Marketing and Sales Manager at Franklin Printing, in an email interview. “One of our customers, Abbott Laboratories, is manufacturing COVID-19 test kits. We print the materials included with each kit.”

    Nemi is very appreciative of how the staff is responding to the changes involving how business is being done. “We have a dedicated team who works hard to service our customers,” he said. “When Abbott needed COVID-19 materials from us in 24 hours, we rose to the occasion, working over the weekend to make a delivery on a Sunday morning.” 

    Franklin Printing is working hard to protect both its staff and customers in accordance with precautions concerning COVID-19. The building isn’t allowing any visitors except for those who are essential. In addition, they are constantly cleaning surfaces, practicing social distancing, and providing all employees with masks and bottles of hand sanitizer. “Everyone is adapting and understands our good decisions now will bring a better tomorrow that much sooner,” Nemi said.

    Even though Franklin Printing is experiencing a decrease in business and have been forced to cut hours for their production team, Franklin Printing is using the challenges they’ve faced as a learning and growing opportunity. “Our goal is to make sound decisions now so there is no long-term financial impact,” Nemi said. “We are taking advantage of the various stimulus programs the state and federal government are offering to provide financial assistance to employees.”

    Mary Jane’s Slice of Heaven, a pizza restaurant near Narrow Gauge Theater that opened in January, has been overwhelmed by the community response that it’s received over the changes. Mary Jamison, owner of the restaurant, has had to make, including laying off new employees, running the business by herself, and switching to take-out only. “The support from the community and the customers is amazing and humbling,” she said in a phone interview. “Everybody that comes in has been super friendly.” 

    Being a new business trying to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some challenges for Jamison, especially in the efforts to receive federal aid. “We don’t have a lot of the documentation that they’re needing,” she said. “We’re trying to find ways to make it work.” This has included contacting banks and other resources recommended to her in order to get the assistance she needs. “It’s like starting the business all over again,” she said.

    To keep everyone safe, Jamison is following social distancing guidelines and has made changes to how she interacts with customers. “It has all been a challenge, but we’re doing it.”

    Jamison is also giving back to the community to those in need during these tough times. “We donated food for the kids’ meals through W.G. Mallett School,” she said. “We also worked with the Children’s Task Force to donate some pizzas to families in need.” 

     The Pierce House, a residential care facility located on Main Street in Farmington, also has the goal of keeping spirits alive for those that they serve. Administrator Darlene Mooar and her staff are doing everything they can to accommodate for new recommendations while also continuing to offer the same way of life that the residents enjoy. “We are providing the opportunity to carry on their most precious activities (exercise, Bingo, and sitting on the porch) by modifying the room set up to accommodate for social distancing.”  They had to inform Pierce House residents and family members that there would be visiting restrictions

    With these visiting restrictions in place, Mooar was worried about the residents. “My greatest concern is the risk of separation anxiety from their usual visits,” she said. However, her team still plans to support residents just like they always have. Through the kindness of those in the community, The Pierce House has been able to exceed the needs of their residents to make them as comfortable and safe as they can.

       The Pierce House staff are reporting any symptoms of respiratory infection, taking their temperature before starting their shifts, and wearing surgical masks, cloth face shields, and face shields when needed. “The best thing I have seen is the employees’ willingness to do everything necessary to protect each other, the residents, and their own families,” said Mooar. “We are the armor that shields our most critical resource: human beings.”

    Despite the challenges Farmington businesses are facing, they are still going strong with the support of their customers, community, and staff. Their resiliency is a true testament to how important togetherness and dedication are in times of uncertainty. 

New Pizzeria Slices into the Farmington Community

New Pizzeria Slices into the Farmington Community

Taylor Burke Contributing Writer

    A new restaurant, Mary Jane’s Slice of Heaven, is bringing fresh flavors and perspectives to the restaurant scene in Farmington. 

    Mary Ellis Jamison, owner, and her mother Jane Ellis recently opened the pizzeria at 103 Narrow Gauge Square. The restaurant features a full bar, specialty pizzas, regular and gluten-free options along with burgers and salads. Customers can dine-in, take out or grab pizza by the slice. 

     Jamison, a Dixfield resident, has worked for her father for the last 23 years at Ellis Variety and Diner and spent the last four years managing the business.

    Ellis, a Farmington resident, has worked at and managed the Big Stop restaurant at Irving in Farmington.

    Jamison and Ellis began planning for the restaurant while in their future location, when the building was leased by Uno Mas. “Certainly isn’t an easy task opening a business,” Jamison said. She had to wait for her pizza oven to come in as well as other things, delaying the opening from the original Jan. 7 date. 

Jane Ellis (left) and Mary Ellis Jamison (right) sit at one of the tables in their newly opened pizzeria. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Burke)

    “It’s frustrating, as far as trying to set up a business,” Ellis said. “There’s no handbook out there that tells you that, so you kind of have to figure out what licenses you need and who to contact,” she said.

    She has a passion for cooking, especially pizza, and she loves the challenge of being busy and getting orders out on time. “It is the most exhilarating thing,” she said, “it’s fun for me.” 

     Mary Jane’s provides services and products that other pizza restaurants may not have. “Nobody else has a full bar,” Ellis said, “Nobody else has the ingredients we have. So that makes us unique.” The restaurant uses fresh ingredients, not frozen. The fries are freshly cut, the dough is hand-tossed using Jamison’s own recipe and they incorporate Maine-made products wherever they can.

     The restaurant has monthly specialty pizzas and burgers that aren’t on the daily menu. Upcoming specialty pizzas include Reuben, Cuban and even a Thanksgiving pizza. 

     “I want to make sure people are getting the quality and quantity that they are paying for,” Jamison said. This isn’t easy as fresh ingredients cost more than frozen and employees must be paid minimum wage, $12 per hour.

     Jamison sees her restaurant as a starter job where employees, some who have never worked in the restaurant business, gain career building skills

. “I love to teach people,” she said, “you don’t learn things by just seeing it once.” 

     Brooke Valentin, a UMF sophomore and employee at Mary Jane’s, has worked in catering but never at a restaurant. She’s had some obstacles along the way but is really liking her new job as a waitress and hostess. “It is really stressful, but they do make it fun,” she said. 

     Some of the logistics of waitressing are taking time to get used to. “My thing is just having trouble remembering the numbers of the tables,” Valentin said, “because the set-up is a little weird.” When she gets overwhelmed, Ellis is always there to support her, offering patience and friendliness to the working environment.

    Brianna McGrath, a UMF senior, recently tried Mary Jane’s. She had heard that the pizza was good so her expectations were high. “They did not disappoint,” she said. “I think I’ll definitely go back.” 

    Jamison wants to create a welcoming atmosphere for all ages and share her passion for pizza with the people of Farmington.“I like providing the service to the community,” she said, “and providing a product that is a happy product.” 

     Jamison and Ellis are planning on introducing events like open mic and trivia nights, as well as new menu items like dessert pizza, in the future. Although they are now open, they will have a grand opening in the spring providing access to the patio and giveaways for customers.