A warm Mc-welcome as Bridgton store opens

FIRST, AND HE’S LOVIN’ IT — Fred Packard, seated, was proud to be chosen by developer Mark Lopez to be the first customer at the new Bridgton McDonald’s on Portland Road, which opened for business Thursday. He posed with owner/operator Edward Roetman after signing his name to the dollar bill he used in paying for his meal: a double cheeseburger, fries and a vanilla shake. (Geraghty Photos)

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

When Mark Lopez, developer of the Bridgton McDonald’s, asked lifelong Bridgton resident and Planning Board member Fred Packard to be the first customer at the new restaurant, Packard was quick to agree.

Packard’s a longtime fast food fan, after all. He can remember paying 55 cents for his first McDonald’s meal: a cheeseburger, fries and a small Coke.

It was 1964, 48 years ago, when the first McDonald’s opened in Maine on St. John Street in Portland.

“Bridgton’s a hamburger town, and always will be a hamburger town,” Packard proclaimed at Thursday’s soft opening, repeating the words of Larry Walsh, owner of the former Dam Site Restaurant in downtown Bridgton.

Although the Grand Opening will be held tomorrow, the chance to be part of what seemed an historic occasion drew around 40 or so people to the long anticipated — and much debated — first day of business at the Bridgton McDonald’s. The customers included older folks and teenagers, and families with youngsters, some sitting, some standing, as they waited just before 10 a.m. in the small café-style seating area for owner/operator Edward Roetman to give the word.

Behind the counter, around a dozen smiling, eager and slightly nervous employees bustled back and forth in last-minute preparations. Then Roetman, who sold off his McDonald’s franchises in another state and moved to Bridgton to head up the new restaurant, beckoned his staff to stand in front of the counter for a photo and pep talk.

CRUISING THRU THE DRIVE-THRU — Bridgton Police Officer Peter Madura was invited to be the first drive-thru customer, and he invited Town Clerk Laurie Chadbourne to come along for the ride in his police cruiser. “I’ve been a supporter of this (bringing McDonald’s to Bridgton) for the last 10 years,” he said. “For the working man today, if you can come here and get two cheeseburgers and two fries for $4, it’s just a great thing for Bridgton.”

“This is going to be awesome,” Roetman said, beaming. “We’re going to make everyone envious in the whole McDonald’s community.”

The time had come. Packard approached the counter and peered up at the menu board. “Let me have a double cheeseburger, large fries and a vanilla shake,” he said. And history was made —five years after the rumor mill began, and close to two years after voters rejected a citizen’s initiative that would have banned fast food restaurants in town. McDonald’s became a reality.

For Bridgton Police Officer Peter Madura, the new McDonald’s is welcome news, and long overdue.

“I’ve been a supporter of this (bringing McDonald’s to Bridgton) for the last 10 years,” said Madura, who arrived with Bridgton Town Clerk Laurie Chadbourne in his cruiser to be the restaurant’s first drive-thru customer. “For the working man today, if you can come here and get two cheeseburgers and two fries for $4, it’s just a great thing for Bridgton.”

Madura’s nephew, Adam Madura, positioned his truck behind his uncle’s cruiser to make sure he was second in line at the drive-thru. “Everything is so expensive these days,” he said. “It’s just nice to have some cheap food.”

Grand Opening is Friday

Bridgton municipal leaders are expected to turn out in force to welcome McDonald’s restaurant to town at an official ribbon-cutting ceremony and Grand Opening Celebration on Friday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. The restaurant, located on Portland Road across from Hannaford, held a soft opening Nov. 29 and has been doing a brisk business ever since.

Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, organized by the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, will include welcoming remarks by Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz and Anne Krieg, director of Planning, Economic & Community Development. Edward Roetman, the new Bridgton restaurant’s owner/operator, will also speak, as will Mark Lopez, the property developer and a member of the Bridgton Community Development Committee, and Jim Mains Jr., the chamber’s executive director.

THE TEAM ASSEMBLES — Around a dozen of the 42 employees of the Bridgton McDonald’s were on hand for the first day of business on Thursday.

Roetman will announce donations that the McDonald’s Corporation is making to organizations in the community.

 

 

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