Owners selling pizza shop
LIMESTONE, Maine — Jamie and Michelle Albert have owned “Al-Bear’s Place,” a Limestone pizza shop named after the phonetic pronunciation of their last name, since November 2009. After seven years, they announced plans to sell the establishment.
In addition to owning the only restaurant in town, an average day for the married couple consists of working an eight-hour shift at Defense Finance and Accounting Services and subsequently switching gears to work at their Main Street restaurant until they arrive home at 8:30, then getting up the following day to do it all over again.
After buying the restaurant from Carl and Mary Morin in 2009, the couple quickly adjusted to the responsibilities of business ownership.
“It was overwhelming at first,” said Jamie. “I used to dream about making sandwiches and pizza. In five days, I had to learn how to roll dough and take care of the major things, but you have to learn fast when you only have a few days.”
“It was a learning experience at first,” said Michelle. “I had to reach out to people at first, but it wasn’t too much of an adjustment. We try our best to share the duties; we know our strengths and work from there.”
Over the years, Al-Bear’s delivered to a variety of local organizations including Maine Military Authority, Sitel, DFAS, and the Maine School of Science and Mathematics.
Sitel’s move to Caribou in addition to the recent layoffs at MMA, have impacted Al-Bear’s business. However, the owners are both thankful for DFAS and MSSM, which have stayed in the community.
“MSSM has been huge,” Jamie said. “They’re the one constant. During school, those kids are right here, which has been nice. We’ve gotten to know some of the students very well. I consider many of them friends at this point.”
Jamie makes it a point to wear Limestone-related clothing while working at the restaurant, representing a community he is proud to serve.
“I’d like to see someone take the place and make something of it, both for themselves and for the town, because Limestone needs something here on Main Street,” Jamie said.
As a result, the Alberts intend to sell the restaurant instead of simply shutting it down.
“If I got tired one day and said that I’m closing shop, there’s no place for those MSSM kids to go at night and hang out for a while,” Jamie said. “There’s no place for a family who can’t travel to Caribou for a meal. It would really break my heart if there was nothing here in Limestone.”
Jamie added that, realistically, he “probably should have closed” when Sitel left Limestone, but stayed so the town could continue to have its own restaurant.
The Alberts said they would sell the restaurant immediately if a buyer approached them. Until then, Jamie says he’ll keep going as long as he can.
Once the restaurant is sold, Michelle says she’d like to “venture out of the Limestone area and see what the rest of the world is like” when their son, the youngest of their five children, graduates high school.
In addition to managing a restaurant and working a full-time job at DFAS, Michelle Albert is president of the Limestone Chamber of Commerce and on the RSU 39 school board. When asked about the last time she had a week off to herself, Michelle took a few moments to recall her last vacation.
“We don’t get to take family vacations together,” Michelle said. “He took a week off in 2014 and I took a week off in June of this year. It’s always separate since someone needs to be running the restaurant.”
Looking back, the couple views the last seven years in a positive light.
“It’s been a very good experience,” Michelle said. “We’re there for the community and owning this restaurant is something we wanted to do for the town of Limestone. We’re definitely trying to sell; my hope is to never have to shut this place down.”
“I imagine, 20 years from now, when my kids are sitting around and talking, some of their great memories will come from this time in their lives, some of the things we did here, and the fun times we had,” Jamie said