Media Archive

Smith's Grocery & Lunch specializes in homemade food at a good price in Brownville

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 27, July 02, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

Contributed Photo
HEAD OF THE TABLE Juanita and Milton Smith host a pizza party at Smith's Grocery and Lunch in Brownville recently.

BROWNVILLE Sixteen years ago, Milton Smith opened a grocery store in Brownville, which happened to serve homemade breakfast, lunch and dinner.

That first day. Smith had set up two tables, suitable for eight customers. He remembers with a smile how 13 people showed up that morning, wanting breakfast.

"We ended up going home and stealing our own kitchen table," Smith said.

Smith's Grocery & Lunch has grown over the years and now seats 52. The business also has become a staple in the eastern Piscataquis County community, one of few survivors in a dwindling economy.

"You have to be married to your business," Smith said, explaining his philosophy that keeps the business afloat. "It has to be a commitment, or you won't make it."

That commitment amounts to plenty ot good, old-fashioned hard work. Forty-hour work weeks are downright uncommon, when there are about four employees to perform all the functions that keep the business going: cooking, baking, cleaning, accounting, opening and closing.

A familiar face in the restaurant is Smith's mother, Juanita, who is famous for her homemade desserts and ice cream, among other delicacies.

"We try to do everything ourselves. Smith said, regarding the cooking and baking.

"We focus on basic, home-cooked food, and we try to have a special every day."

There are customers who have become regulars - especially folks who enjoy the Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast buffet with family and fnends - as well as those hungry folks passing through, including fishermen, hunters and tourists.

Although the original idea. Smith said, was to open a grocery in town &Mac247; it was the home-style restaurant that has grown, and prospered.

In addition to a weekend breakfast buffet (pancakes, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit and more), the restaurant offers a Wednesday night buffet, complete with seafood and meats. The price is reasonable, between $3.95 for the breakfast buffet, and $6.45 for the dinner.

Smith said he realizes the local economy is not great, so he has to price his food reasonably. If the cost was too much, his customers just wouldn't come, he said. But, he still has to charge enough to keep the doors open.

He said he focuses on buying local produce from area farmers &Mac247; adding to-the-homemade taste on his menu. He also has learned not to buy all his necessities from one provider "I learned that you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket. " he said.

The grocery store stocks the basics in home goods, along with carrying some fresh flowers, plants, t-shirts, greeting cards, fishing supplies and other items. "We have a little bit of everything," Smith said.

All in all, building the business from the start has been a learning experience, Smith said. "It's been a lot of trial and error."

But at least, he's found a formula that works: "We try to have quality food at a reasonable price," he said. "We try to offer a good-sized serving, too."

Smith's Grocery & Lunch, on Route 11 in Brownville, is open Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Information or to make reservations: 965-8818.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.