YARMOUTH — The Down-East Village Restaurant has been serving Maine comfort food like crab au gratin, lobster rolls and fried clams for nearly 60 years.
But owners Ed and Sue Ferrell have decided it is time to hand over the keys and lease the space to a couple formerly from Massachusetts, who will transform it into an Italian restaurant this spring.
The Ferrells said the restaurant has been on the market for a while, but when Ken and Ellie Arra approached them to lease the space, everything fell into place.
“It’s time for us to move on,” Sue Ferrell said. “After all these years, it’s time for a change.”
The Ferrells will continue to run the motel business that was opened in 1950 by Ed’s parents, Herb and Barb Ferrell, but the restaurant will reopen as Canelli’s Italian Restaurant this spring.
Ed Ferrell said when his parents returned from military service in World War II they moved to Maine to work at the R.C. Nichols sporting goods business on Route 88. The business was owned by Barb’s father, Edward Valentine Jaeger.
In 1949, the family moved the business to Route 1 and in 1950 opened the Down-East Village Motel and a Gulf gas station and leased the restaurant to Simpson’s Hamburger.
The couple said they believe theirs is the oldest operating motel in the state.
The first two years the motel consisted of two buildings. By 1952, Ed’s parents took over the restaurant and named it the Down-Easter. By 1963, Interstate 295 had been built, diverting traffic from Route 1, which hurt the restaurant’s lunch business.
Ed said while the family adjusted to the change, the business suffered. But over time they built it back, added more motel rooms and a swimming pool.
Sue was introduced to the family in 1972 when Ed’s father hired her to work at the restaurant as a hostess.
“A friend of mine urged me to work at the Down-East with her for the summer,” she said. They were engaged the next February and married a year later.
After Ed’s father had a stroke in 1973, Ed became the general manager of the motel and restaurant at the age of 23.
Throughout the 1980s, their business and family grew. The couple raised three boys, added more motel rooms and built a new dining room and kitchen for the restaurant. In 1989 the couple hosted their first Breakfast with Santa, which became a family tradition, Ed said.
Over the years the restaurant has been a place for anniversary parties, memorial services, holiday celebrations and meetings. Closing the Down-East Village Restaurant will affect the groups that hold functions there, but the Ferrells said they hope some of the traditions will continue.
“The business has changed immensely over the years,” Sue said. “We had a great local following, but with all the new restaurants in the Portland area, it’s hard to attract new people.”
She said she is happy the new business owners are a couple who have restaurant experience and are excited to start this new venture.
“This is a nice fit,” Sue said. “I wish them the best of luck.”
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Down-East Village Restaurant, an institution in Yarmouth since 1952, has closed. Owners Ed and Sue Ferrell have leased the space to a couple who plan to open as an Italian restaurant this spring. The Ferrells will continue to run the Down-East Motel.