Chelsea and Beth Leemanby Gary Hawkes
Coastal Journal contributor
BRUNSWICK — Beth Leeman opened the Wheelhouse Café on Brunswick’s Maine Street in 2008. According to her daughter, Chelsea, “It was an empty nest thing. We had both worked at the existing business, and when I left for college, Mom bought it.”
After purchasing the Station Espresso Bar, Beth closed for one week to refurbish the interior and the menu. She added many more baked goods to the menu, and quickly developed a dedicated clientele.
In 2010, Beth closed the Wheelhouse Café. Shortly thereafter, the owner of the Great Island Boat Yard in Harpswell approached her with an idea. He had always wanted to have a café within walking distance of the dock. Knowing Beth and her business, he made an offer almost too good to be true. A building was constructed specifically for use as a café, and the new Wheelhouse Café was launched in August 2011.
Chelsea, having returned from school, now works with her mother in the café. It is an inviting place, with “lots of wood inside.” They also feature unique sculptures by local artist Eric Rand. Tables inside and out afford a comfortable setting for either breakfast or lunch.
The menu features numerous muffins, biscuits, and scones for morning time, with a selection of panini and other fare added for the lunch crowd. All the baking is done by the Leemans, and, as Chelsea puts it, “We are not afraid to try different things.” She gives full credit to her mother in this regard. “Everything she tries is good.”
One of the value-added features at the Wheelhouse Café is the fresh, locally harvested lobster found in a special panino, as well as in lobster rolls and in the occasional savory baked goods. Beth’s husband Aldie is a third-generation resident of Harpswell and works as a lobsterman. Similar care is given to all the food preparation. “We try to prepare everything each day. Nothing stays in the refrigerator longer than three days.”
Current plans are to close the café shortly after Columbus Day, although Beth is considering doing some catering during the off-season. Chelsea plans to work in Aspen, Colorado for the winter, something of a working vacation, returning in time for the new season in late April.
Asked about the difference in their new location, Chelsea notes that the Harpswell address tends to attract more seasonal residents than they had previously. “We miss some of our regulars in the old location, but some of them have sought us out.” While it is different, “it has been a great move,” said Chelsea.
The Wheelhouse Café is located at 419 Harpswell Island Rd. (Route 24) in Harpswell. They are open six days a week, Wednesday through Monday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. They’re closed on Tuesdays. For more information, visit www.wheelhousecafe.com, or call 725-0899.