Owner, Foreside Tavern in Falmouth; Grace in Portland
Anne Verrill, 35, of Falmouth is the owner of two restaurants that are finding and maintaining success in the increasingly crowded, competitive greater Portland restaurant scene: Foreside Tavern in Falmouth, and Grace, the high-end restaurant housed in a renovated church in downtown Portland.
Verrill attributes her success to something many enterpreneurs of any age can relate to: “refusing to see failure as an option.”
Verrill started learning about the restaurant business at the age of 16, working as a waitress in various restaurants while she attended school. As a political science major at the University of Colorado in Boulder, she never thought of the restaurant business as anything else but a way to help pay for her schooling. But when she and her ex-husband Peter moved to Maine in the early 2000s, they decided to give the restaurant business a go. The Foreside Tavern came first, and then, in 2008, they purchased the Chestnut Street United Methodist Church, which was in disrepair and slated for demolition. Though the recession was in full swing by then, they managed to secure $2 million in loans to turn the old church into a dining showplace.
As the sole proprieter now (her ex is a silent partner), Verrill has shepherded Grace into a leading role in the Portland dining community.
“We opened like gangbusters and then experienced a little bit of a trickle down,” she says. “It took about a year and a half to get the bugs out.”
A 2009 graduate of Maine’s Institute for Civic Leadership intensive course, Verrill also takes her role as a civic leader seriously. Most recently, she teamed up with the Good Shepherd Food Bank to help raise $12,000 for the Cooking Matters program through a “Chopped Challenge” cookoff that took place at Grace in May. Verrill has also teamed up with other restaurants to raise money for No Kid Hungry in Maine.
Though women in the restaurant business are not as much of a rarity as they once were, Verrill says she has still faced a number of gender-related challenges. While ordering business equipment or meeting with architects and builders, Verrill has had men say to her, “Do you want to get a male to sit in on the meeting with you?” In questioning why something wasn’t done right, she’s been labeled the b-word, knowing full well that no man in her position would have accepted the same word.
Her answer, she says, has been to educate herself to the point where “no one could talk down to her.”
Another challenge has been raising her two children, 7 and 6, while running a business. It was easier when they were younger, she says, because she could spend most of their awake time with them before going off to work at 4 p.m.
“Luckily, they’ve grown up in the business and don’t know anything else,” she says. “And I make sure to protect my time with them away from the restaurant.”
According to Verrill, Grace is having its best year yet since it opened in 2010. She credits her staff for the restaurant’s success.
“We opened Grace with the same chef, the same staff from the tavern,” she says. “It’s very much a team environment.”