Barnie’s coffee shop to close

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LEWISTON – There were plenty of regulars, but not enough to sustain the trendy coffee shop in Bates Mill No. 6.

Barnie’s Cafe is closing five months after it opened, when it offered the city’s first extensive coffee bar. The final day is Monday, said manager Ray Michaud.

“It’s truly sad,” he said. “People are upset about it.”

The cafe posted signs Thursday letting patrons know that the business will close at 2 p.m. July 9. Michaud said the cafe was plenty busy during lunch hours, but was quiet before and after.

“There just wasn’t enough traffic,” he said.

The shop – the first New England franchise of the Florida-based Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Co. – opened in February and immediately began catering to the 2,000 people who work at the Bates Mill complex. Light breakfast and full lunch menus rounded out the dozens of caffeine offerings, which ran the gamut from espresso to latte to cappuccino.

Owner Paul Spellman had researched the market last year, determining that the area was underserved for coffee and cafe fare. His business model was based on the opportunity to serve Bates Mill employees, who have no other on-site cafe options. The mill complex is home to a vast TD Banknorth operation, as well as Androscoggin Bank’s back-office headquarters and smaller businesses such as medical offices, two restaurants and small retailers.

Paul Badeau, marketing director for the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, said he was disappointed to hear the news. The council highlighted Barnie’s in a promotional clip that aired on WGME Channel 13, and Badeau said much of the staff at the growth council were frequent patrons at the cafe.

“It’s a shame,” he said, “especially given the quality of the food and atmosphere it provided. It was a cool, hip spot.

“But the restaurant business is an extremely difficult and tricky business,” he added. “I’m sure there will be other restaurants coming to the area and others that will close. It’s the nature of the restaurant business, not the business climate of L-A.”

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