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HARPSWELL — After a three-year hiatus, longtime Cundy’s Harbor eatery Block & Tackle is back in business.
Dawn Bichrest opened the restaurant at 843 Cundy’s Harbor Road in 1982, but after 33 years in business she quietly closed the restaurant in 2015.
In an interview last summer, she said she had no plans to reopen or lease the restaurant, but planned to keep it in case any one of her 14 grandchildren, or their children, wanted to take it over someday.
Now, her daughter-in-law, Pam Bichrest, has grabbed the opportunity. She explained her mother-in-law’s reasoning for closing the family business three years ago.
“She was 78 years old at the time and still doing this, so she decided that enough was enough,” Bichrest said.
She said the inspiration to reopen the restaurant came when she and her husband realized they wanted to spend more time together.
“I’ve worked 21 or 22 years doing medical transcription, so we (were like) ‘OK, I could work three or four months and then have the rest of the year off and we could do things we wanted to do,'” she said.
Bichrest had worked at the restaurant before, and one of her daughters and a niece still do, so the “family business” dynamic is in full force. All five of Dawn’s sons, including Pam’s husband, work in the fishing industry as either lobstermen or commercial fishermen, which makes them well-versed in good seafood. Dawn’s husband and father also worked as lobstermen.
“My best tasters and greatest critics are my husband and his brothers because they were brought up on fresh fish – caught that day type of stuff,” Bichrest said.
Running a local seafood place also runs in the family – Dawn’s father launched Allen’s Seafood, a seasonal wharf selling live lobsters, crabs and quahogs, on Lookout Point Road in the 1960s.
After re-opening Block & Tackle in May, Bichrest said she has been doing “whatever needs to be done,” from cooking to serving. Dawn has also helped out, but Bichrest said the Block & Tackle founder doesn’t want to interfere.
Bichrest has made a few additions to the menu, including calamari, (“my family loves it, so they told me I have to have it,” she said), and a seafood-and-cheese dip consisting of lobster, scallops, shrimp, and crab meat.
She also tries to use as much local seafood as possible in her dishes, especially clams and crab meat.
Lunch and dinner are served are served Tuesday through Friday, and breakfast is served on the weekends. The restaurant is closed on Mondays, and will be open for the season through Labor Day Weekend.
Although serving breakfast may seem a bit unorthodox for a seafood restaurant, Bichrest said early service is another longstanding tradition that Dawn started.
“She started out serving breakfast at 5 o’clock in the morning because when she first started she served it to a lot of fishermen,” she said. “And then as things evolved employee-wise, trying to get someone to come in that early (became harder).”
The restaurant has long been loved by Cundy’s Harbor locals. In an interview last summer before it was reopened, Karin Watson, owner of Watson’s General Store, said the restaurant was “the locals’ first choice.”
Numerous comments on the new Block & Tackle Facebook page also reflect that sentiment. One said she is “so happy” the eatery is open again: “We have spent the last 20 years staying on Bailey Island and you were the first restaurant recommended to us.”
Bichrest said support from longtime patrons is one of the best things about re-opening the Block & Tackle.
“You hear all the people from the community sitting out and talking about this and that, (and) fishermen talking about whatever might be going on,” she said. “So that’s part of the reward of doing this. A lot of other people (have been) coming in, too, and saying ‘Oh I’m so glad you’re open again.'”
Pam Bichrest, daughter-in-law of the founder of the Block & Tackle in Cundy’s Harbor, has reopened the restaurant after it was closed three years ago.
Block & Tackle, the family-owned seafood restaurant at 843 Cundy’s Harbor Road, is open again after a three-year hiatus.