In a long-empty building in downtown Presque Isle, Allison Basye and Greg Doak are opening a new cafe, Allegro, which they hope will be the first of a trio of food ventures.

Starting Monday, Dec. 5, Basye and Doak will be welcoming customers for coffee, breakfast and lunch, as well as offering internet access inside their bright space on Main Street.

While other small eateries have opened and closed in downtown Presque Isle in the last decade and the region’s population is shrinking, Basye and Doak say they think there is demand for the downtown space and fresh food they’re offering.

“It’ll be a casual meeting hall and coffee shop, where people can come in, relax and enjoy themselves,” said Basye, a Fort Fairfield native who’ll be running the culinary side of the business.

“It’s from scratch. We’re going to roast our own meats, make our own sauces, make our bread. No canned goods — nothing pre-cooked,” she said, adding they’re looking to source foods from local farmers.

The cafe will be open 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. seven days per week, with plans for open mic music and food on Friday and Saturday evenings, Basye said. The shop also has another gathering space in a room behind the kitchen, which will be available to rent for business conferences.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” Basye said of running her own cafe. “I’ve helped other people open their businesses.”

As a teen Basye moved with her parents to Florida, where she worked at a friend’s family-owned Italian restaurant and got started in a food career that included a year-long internship in northern Italy with a family restaurant near Milan.

She’s worked around the country in culinary management since then, while also coming home for a long visits as her parents returned to Fort Fairfield in 2009. Last spring, after working in Texas, she returned for a job with Sodexo at the University of Maine Presque Isle, though within a few months she found the opportunity downtown after getting in touch with Doak, a longtime friend and former campus center coordinator at UMPI.

They talked with Dr. Curt Young, owner of Presque Isle’s Vision Care, who owns adjacent buildings on the downtown block and the former KeyBank building across the street. That led to leasing the space for Allegro and two projects to come.

Underneath the coffee shop, in a walkout basement where the Mooseleuk Club once had a bowling alley, Basye and Doak are planning to spend the next year renovating and preparing to open Bar Allegro, a sports bar and pub.

When that opens, they want to spend a year on El Allegro, an “upscale, casual Italian restaurant” on the third floor of the Key Bank building, with an outdoor terrace and rooftop garden, Basye said.

After decades of small downtown businesses losing ground to suburban sprawl and big box retailers around the country, people in communities like Presque Isle are turning back to downtowns for parks and public spaces and independent businesses.

Within the last year, Card Smart, the Olde Rustic Attic and Denises Creative Touch have moved from the Aroostook Centre Mall to Main Street shops in downtown Presque Isle, following the likes of Bike, Board and Ski, which relocated from the mall to Main Street in 2013. Longtime Main Street businesses such as Merchants on the Corner have been joined by more recent ones such as King Morton’s Hall of Music, an instrument shop that opened in 2012.

The restaurant Cafe Sorpreso, meanwhile, is celebrating its ninth year on Main Street, and the city is continuing a summer farmers market at Riverside Park and regular street fairs.

For independent businesses, reaching potential customers has perhaps never been easier or cheaper, thanks to the internet. A Facebook page may be all some small businesses need for marketing.

“I think the local stores did a good trade on Small Business Saturday,” Theresa Fowler, executive director of the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, said.

“The increase in online shopping is hurting the larger chain stores in many cases,” she added. “There will always be the need to acquire things immediately, and we need to support all local businesses so we are able to buy what we want or need locally.”