OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Rory Timmins was taking a Saturday morning walk with her husband through their neighborhood when she noticed a familiar smell in the air.

It wasn’t the salty scent of the nearby ocean. It was the mouth-watering aroma of french fries being cooked. The Original Pier French Fries, to be exact.

“I just have to have them,” said Timmins, standing in a lengthy line. “I was surprised. I didn’t know they were going to open today. We’ve been cooped up, so it felt good to get out for a walk.

“It’s just like a sign of summer, the smell of the fries … vinegar and salt, you’ve got to do them up right. … It’s a happy sign of good things to come.”

There were hundreds of people who felt that way as Pier Fries, as it’s known locally, opened for the first time this season on a warm, sunny day. People came from New Gloucester, Standish, Windham, Saco and Biddeford to get their fill of Pier Fries for the first time this season.

“It’s well worth it,” said Cindy Hanson, who came from Standish with her husband, Bruce, and brought her own vinegar squirter and salt shaker. “We had to make this trip. We can’t wait for it to open every year.”

The fries were clearly the selling point. But, said Saco resident Katie Conroy, the opening also provided “a little bit of normalcy.”

Scheduled to open at 11 a.m., owner Allan Buotte said he actually served his first customer at 9:30 a.m. That was his high school buddy Steve Howe and his daughter Ashley. They walked to his place from their home in Saco. The opening was about a month later than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic and Buotte and his wife, Tiffany, were busy filling boxes and working the register.

“We’ve been chomping,” said Buotte. “This means the world, really, to get some revenue in and see some familiar faces. But at the same time we feel terribly for the people who aren’t able to do this now, restaurants who don’t have the same setup that we do. So it’s a little bittersweet.”

Pier Fries was one of several food establishments that opened for pickup sales Saturday, including Lisa’s Pizza, Rocco’s Pizza, Bill’s Pizza and the Maine Lobster Cafe. But Pier Fries, which first opened in 1932, clearly holds a special place in the hearts of its customers.

“For a lot of OOB residents it is one of those ‘summer is coming’ check-list items, like your first stop at the ice cream stand,” said Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Larry Mead. “It can’t help but lift your spirits and we all can use a little of that right now.”

Town officials worked with the establishments to set proper social distancing guidelines for them to follow, with sidewalks clearly marked. On Saturday, Fred LaMontagne, Old Orchard Beach’s fire chief and director of emergency management, stood on an island in the middle of the road to oversee the crowds. He occasionally stepped in to remind people to maintain proper distance but otherwise was pleased with the results.

“We’re trying to balance what’s going on and the need for the businesses to be open,” said LaMontagne. “It’s a short season for them. I think that’s the focus. We recognize the concerns of our constituents, the governor’s order and the business people and we’re trying to find that balance to keep everyone safe and allow commerce to continue within the guidance of the governor’s order around food and takeout essentials.

“I think that’s what everyone is looking for, those small little things that we can have that will bring us to a normal point and work out well for everybody.”

For many, this was a step toward normalcy during anything-but-normal times.

“I feel like I’ve hit the lottery,” said Heather Briggs of Saco. “We’ve been cooped up so long, it’s nice to see some friends. And it’s about supporting local businesses.”

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