The flag says ‘open’ but Melby’s in Waterford is closing this week. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

WATERFORD — For more than a century markets and general stores have operated out of 927 Valley Road, but this week marks an end of its era as Melby’s Market and Eatery closes for good.

Previously known as Tut’s and then run as Melby’s, most recently by Wayne and Tracie Hill, the restaurant and building are up for sale as a turnkey business.

“It’s been tough since we reopened” following COVID shutdowns, Melby’s owner Tracie Hill told the Advertiser Democrat during a phone interview. “We’ve done the best we can. The community has been awesome …. and our crew has been right there with us. But we are tired.”

The couple began running Melby’s in 2016, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner that has earned a dedicated following. Hill said when they took over, almost seven years ago, they employed around 24 people. They were able to reopen following the pandemic shutdowns in 2020, but were never able to hire enough staff to maintain.

“We’ve had a handful employees that just stuck with it,” Hill said. “They’ve worked so hard, going six days a week. We had to close one day a week just everyone could have a day off.”

Watching the economy and rising prices tipped the scales for the Hills. The building, which has three apartments in addition to the restaurant and store, was built mid-19th century. Just the expense of heating through winter during stable times has been high enough. Not knowing how much it would cut into the store’s income this year was more than they wanted to manage.


Hill said she and husband Wayne plan to take a couple of months off and rest before they start their next venture – a food truck that will provide a more flexible schedule and require much lower overhead expense. She said she has spoken to people in several towns around western Maine about location bases but no decisions have been made.

“It would be a horrible thing to keep my husband’s cooking away from our customers. He is a real food artist,” she said.

Future menu items are also up in the air, but Hill guarantees Wayne’s signature seafood chowder will return. “It’s his specialty, even though he himself doesn’t like seafood.”

Melby’s doors will close for the last time when the kitchen and store inventory is sold out. The Hills have been eying Sept. 30 as their final date, but the way business has been going she said it might be a few days ahead of that.

“We have had a fantastic time here,” she said. “We will miss the community.”

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