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.
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.