Helen’s Restaurant in flames, tragic loss for Downeast Maine

It’s sad when a family loses a loved one. I’m realizing this morning that it’s a similar feeling when a community loses a place that it loves….a place that defines it.

10343496_10202558400906829_2666733480598124045_nPhoto credit to Peter Scoville

10445492_10202558401146835_2086662658227774566_nPhoto Credit to Peter Scoville


Photo credits to Wendy Sawyer


I’ve had every intention of doing a post about Helen’s Restaurant in Machias. This certainly isn’t how I imagined it.

Falling asleep in my highchair, birthdays, Sunday lunches, my name and inches written in pencil on the center pole by the pie case, countless circles made by my brother and I on our big wheels late at night while my parents scrubbed the floors. So many memories. The place is woven into every fiber of my being.

Any kid whose parents own a business knows the bitterness that sometimes comes with it. Where it has been a huge source of joy in my life, there were days that I selfishly cursed the place. Boy, I’m thinking of those times this morning. Sacrifices were made for many years. The truth is, as an employee and loyal customer, I owe so much of who I am to this establishment. My passion for family, food, work, and Downeast Maine was fueled by Helen’s.

My heart broke this morning when I turned my phone on to find a message sent from my mom that Helen’s had burned to the ground. I cried for a couple of hours while thinking of what I might want to write here today. I have no connection to my Downeast family other than the internet. It wasn’t until I logged on to Facebook and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the people of my hometown. I started to realize, while it certainly is devastating for our family after 38 years of heart, sweat, and blood poured into the business, it’s devastating to our community as well. To locals and tourists alike, Helen’s was a second home to countless people. It was a place to celebrate friends, family, and awesome food. While the ashes are still smoldering, a community is coming together. Family is a more appropriate word…the Helen’s family is connecting from all over the country to reminisce and support one another.

On a more positive note, my parents and the owners, Julie and David Barker, have already started discussing rebuilding and starting fresh.

Huge thank you to all the fire departments and other members of the community who helped out this morning. 409711_486324914714800_700829604_n


Recommend this article
Rianne Ackley

About Rianne Ackley

I grew up in Downeast Maine but have recently relocated to the North Woods. I live in Clayton Lake where I am a stay at home Mom to two beautifully wild little boys and wife to a Maine State Game Warden. I am a lover of the simple things in life...a good book, a song, a rainy day, a bowl of white popcorn, etc. I have a slight obsession with all things food. Love cooking it, eating it, looking at it, smelling it, reading about it, etc. I am a firm believer that life is what you make it.