Pennsylvania transplant opens Harpswell boatyard cafe

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HARPSWELL — The Great Island Boat Yard is welcoming more than just new boaters this summer.

It is now also home to a new cafe called Craft Kitchen & Provisions.

Pamela Rhoads, a Pennsylvania native with a background in catering, opened the business Aug. 1.

Rhoads is a social worker who spent years fundraising for nonprofits. She described herself as a “home cook,” not a professional chef.

Her work with food, however, has taken her around the country. Some of her inspiration comes from her grandmother and mother, women she called “amazing” cooks, as well as from friends in the industry.

“I worked for some friends in Seattle who gave me business … . I formed a real sensibility about food in the way I like to cook and the flavors I like to use,” she said. “It was just the perfect storm I guess.”

Rhoads is no stranger to Harpswell, either. She said her parents have spent summers in the Orr’s and Bailey Island area.

Craft Kitchen & Provisions, which is open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday-Sunday from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Rhoads said her vision for the menu is to start “really simple,” with offerings that will change weekly.

During the restaurant’s first week, those options included an egg biscuit with bacon jam, strawberry-rhubarb compote, and a yogurt parfait.

Rhoads said the lunch menu will always have three sandwiches for customers to choose from, including one vegetarian option. Once the weather gets colder, soup will also be added.

The first week’s list included a veggie falafel with a “green goddess” drizzle and hummus, and smoked pork served on a ciabatta roll with a choice of “special sauce.”

Rhoads’ partner in operating the business is chef Wes Trout, who’s been traveling from Pennsylvania to smoke meat at the restaurant twice a month.

Rhoads said she eventually hopes to prepare more grab-and-go options for boaters, as well as sell prepared meals such as chicken piccata or lasagna that are easily transportable.

“I want to start to play with it a little bit, I don’t want to be too rigid,” she said. “I just sort of want to see what people want and what people are responding to.”

The restaurant has traditionally been a seasonal operation, but Rhoads said her ultimate goal is for Craft Kitchen & Provisions to be open year round. Her plan for this year is to keep the cafe open through September.

“(The building) is fully heatable, so it’s definitely a year-round space,” she said. “I need to bring my husband and my dog up from Pennsylvania, but we’re working on it.”

In addition to new owners and a new menu, Craft Kitchen & Provisions has also brought a new look to the boatyard.

Rhoads’ husband, a carpenter, transformed the kitchen and dining area before the new restaurant’s opening, and boatyard staff added a wrap-around deck to the building.

Rhoads created a sketch of her vision for the interior design of the cafe during the hiring process, and said the final look combines her love of “clean lines” and a “pop of color.”

Kristin Peterson, manager of the marina at Great Island Boat Yard, said the building that houses Craft Kitchen & Provisions was built in 2010. It has housed two other cafes, but Peterson said neither of the owners “stayed for very long.”

“(The building) kind of went up quickly as the idea that it would be some kind of cafe, but there wasn’t a lot of thought put into the design and layout of the kitchen,” she said. “We realized that the interior flow needed to be changed for it to be a truly successful cafe.”

Peterson said she was connected with Rhoads after her call for a new tenant made its way to the Fork Food Lab in Portland, where Rhoads’ sister is a member, and told Rhoads about the opportunity.

Ultimately, Rhoads said she knew after meeting Peterson that opening the cafe would be a good fit.

“It was just so evident that these folks are so dedicated to quality and providing the best service to their clients,” she said. “It felt like a good fit to me because that’s sort of my model as well.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Pamela Rhoads at Craft Kitchen & Provisions in Harpswell on Aug. 2.

Craft Kitchen & Provisions, at Great Island Boat Yard in Harpswell, opened Aug. 1.

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