The former Kmart building on Center Street in Auburn remains empty Wednesday afternoon, while potential investors look at the possibility of using the space. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

This week, the Buzz is giving you five guesses to name the retailer looking to move into the former Kmart on Center Street.

. . .


It’s U-Haul.

AMERCO Real Estate Company, a real estate subsidiary of U-Haul, has a site plan review application pending with the Auburn Planning Board for it to take up next month.

If approved, U-Haul would convert the 113,500-square foot building at 603 Center St. into a truck and trailer rental location with 94,000-square feet of the inside retrofitted for self-storage units, according to the application.

U-Haul Moving and Storage would employ 10 to 15 people, a mix of full- and part-time.

The estimated project cost is listed as unknown on its application.

The building has been empty since Kmart closed last fall. There’s no word on what would happen to U-Haul’s existing, smaller location at 541 Center St.

Ready for more change?

Pythia, LLC is proposing a new project called Auburn Marketplace for 1777 Washington St., turning the former Fireside Inn restaurant into three spaces, one of them a fast food restaurant with a new drive-thru.

Sebago Technics filed Pythia’s site plan and special exception application with the Auburn Planning Board, also to be taken up next month.

The $200,000 project would divide the 5,450-square foot restaurant space into a fast food space, a sandwich shop or other retail and space for a hotel lobby.

A canopy would come down and 22-foot wide driveway would go in for the drive-thru.

The application doesn’t name an anticipated tenant, but the traffic study portion notes: “For the purpose of this project, the methods outlined for a Dunkin Donuts coffee shop are utilized, as this provides the largest trip generation calculation and therefore a conservative approach.”

The work won’t impact the hotel.

‘It’s friends, it’s happiness’

It’s been a tough week for restaurants, so it’s great to be able to end the Buzz on a bright note:

Keshia Thanephonesy and Zach Pratt in front of the new boba location on Lisbon Street in Lewiston when it opened last year. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo

Boba chef Zach Pratt announced on Sunday that the Asian restaurant would be making free lunches for kids, “No questions asked beyond which school and your favorite teacher!,” Tuesday to Saturday, thru April 2.

The choices include grilled cheese, chicken or homemade fried rice, tater tots or corn, and fruit and milk.

Pratt, who started boba with his fiancee, Keshia Thanephonesy, in 2015 and moved to Lisbon Street last year, said it was an easy offer to make. They were concerned about families struggling to make ends meet and kids going hungry during the long school closure.

“I have lived in the Lewiston community my entire life and love our community and what it has to offer for all of us,” said Pratt. “In my fiancee’s culture, food is not just a staple, it’s family, it’s flavor, it’s friends, it’s happiness, it’s sadness. We offer food to ancestors, we offer food to our monks, and we always let children eat first.”

He said Wednesday he wasn’t sure how many of the lunches had been served so far.

Boba closed Wednesday for two days to regroup and strategize, and offered to deliver the meals to kids’ homes while they were down. The restaurant, doing take-out and delivery only, hopes to reopen Friday.

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

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