Julia Cooper, on left, and Jody Mabus pose recently in front of the town-owned takeout food stand on the Castine town pier, which they will operate this summer. The duo, who are taking over operation of the stand from another vendor, plan to call it Safe Harbor and to open sometime in mid-to-late May. Credit: Courtesy of Julia Cooper

A Castine native who spent teenage summers working at a takeout food stand on the local town-owned pier will be one of two partners running the stand this summer.

Julia Cooper and Jody Mabus have reached an agreement with the town to operate the site, likely beginning sometime in mid-to-late May.

The duo will be the latest operators of the food stand, which has become a local institution over the years where many residents and visitors enjoy a simple summer meal while taking in the view of the scenic harbor. Their eatery will be called Safe Harbor, Cooper said Thursday.

“I’ve been working in the food service industry for over half my life, since I was 14,” Cooper said. “I want to see Castine survive and thrive. I love this town more than anything on the planet. It is my home.”

Cooper, who works part-time at T&C Market on nearby Water Street and operates a seasonal house cleaning business, said she worked at the takeout stand while in high school when it was called The Breeze and when it was The Captain’s Catch, which operated from 2018 through 2022. She says that she and Mabus plan to hire half a dozen or so employees to help them run the stand, and that she plans to keep her other part-time jobs.

She said she is very familiar with the local business community and with summertime activity at the pier, which attracts a lot of boaters and sightseers and is right next to Maine Maritime Academy’s waterfront facilities. She said she and Mabus are still working on the menu and pricing but plan to keep the stand’s fare in the same vein that it has been: lobster rolls, burgers, fries, ice cream, and the like.

Cooper plans to offer the same clam chowder that she used to make when she worked years ago at Dennett’s Wharf, located on the far side of the parking lot, she said.

“People would come from different states for that,” Cooper said. “I love cooking and always want it to be part of my life.”

When the town announced this winter that it was looking for a new vendor to operate the stand, she thought “I’d be stupid not to try.”

Cooper said the prior operators owned all the equipment inside the stand and took it with them when they moved out, so she is in the process of getting new stoves, ovens, fryers, refrigerators and freezers. The items are being serviced now and should be shipped soon, she said.

The opening date depends on how long it takes her to get everything ready once the equipment arrives, but she wants to open at the latest by Memorial Day weekend. There’s no heat in the building, so the fall weather might determine when she closes, but she’s hoping to keep the stand operating through the end of September.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....