Just two short years after opening on Harbor Hill, Vinalhaven’s ARCafé has relocated to 50B Main Street. The new facility, officially named ARCafé Community Learning Center and Local Foods Market, opened quietly on Memorial Day weekend and will feature a larger menu as well as a local farmer’s market.

Thirty-one adult and eight student volunteers renovated the 50B Main Street location. The result is a classy, hip café featuring two extra-large booths, three small tables and a few counter seats in addition to the register area and a dedicated farmers market display. Perhaps most importantly, the new café includes a full kitchen that will allow the ARC staff to offer a wider variety of food on their menu.

According to ARCafé Personnel Manager Tristan Jackson, since their opening on Main Street, everything has gone well in the café. “Every day I hear a lot of positive,” he said. “We have seen bigger days here than we ever saw on the hill already.” But perhaps the best part of being in town, in Jackson’s opinion, is the greater variety of people. The clientele has been “super diverse,” Jackson said. “We’ve had old, young, foreign, domestic, everything in between. There has been a good flow of people and a wide variety of people.”

One of the main reasons for the ARCafé’s move to Main Street was the staff’s desire to add more food to their menu. “We had people interested in cooking nutritious food, more food,” said Jackson. “We had lots of ideas about getting the kids started in cooking, but we needed a certified range- top cooking kitchen.” At the High Street location, the ARC staff was able to offer baked goods and a soup or stew kept warm in a slow cooker. But because the kitchen facilities at that location were lacking, they were unable to expand their menu they way they really wanted to. With their new kitchen, the ARC staff will be able to offer things such as smoothies, waffles, “Island Lamb Meatloaf” and “Baked Bean Brunch.”

Another big reason for the move was the staff’s desire to open a local foods market. “Gabe [McPhail, ARC General Manager] always had an interest in local agriculture,” said Jackson. When asked, local farmers felt they needed a local foods market with a low shelving cost. Last year, Phil Crossman, owner of Island Spirits, donated space in his Main Street shop two days a week for growers to sell their produce. McPhail volunteered her time another day each week selling produce out of a truck in the town parking lot, but it wasn’t enough. “We wanted seven days a week with next to no shelving cost,” said Jackson.

Of the seven island farmers who grow things to sell, all but one are participating in the ARC’s market. The market currently offers several different varieties of greens, herbs and eggs. Later in the summer, offerings will expand to include flowers, tomatoes and other vegetables and locally raised lamb. At first glance, the space provided looks a bit small for the products of six farmers. However, Jackson pointed out that with the larger kitchen, they now have the refrigerator space to keep back-up inventory and replenish the display as necessary.

In an effort to make local, fresh food available to everyone, the ARCafé is in the process of applying to WIC so that low-income families may purchase market produce at a reduced rate. However, according to McPhail, as the ARC is not a regular grocery store, it is an unusual case and had to apply with a cover letter and a letter of recommendation from Dinah Moyer, Executive Director of Island Community Medical Services, rather than the usual application.

Perhaps the most important facet of the ARC’s many-faceted existence is the educational component. The original ARCafé was founded as a place-based education project, with the intention of having students run the café and learn the associated practical and business skills. According to Jackson, increased student interest was a big factor in the ARC’s move. “What got us started up there got us started here,” he said, “the kids nudging, more kids wanting more.” With the larger facility, Jackson said, the ARC will be able to hire more student staffers who will be the recipients of one-on-one instruction. Jackson pointed out that within the group of eight student staffers there is a “huge range of aptitude.” The ARC staff’s goal is to make a personal plan for each student staffer to work on and meet Common Core Standards, which will replace the Maine State Learning Results, through their work experience at the ARCafé. Fourteen-year-old Tyler Ward is one of the ARC’s student staffers this summer. Ward has Down syndrome, and this is his first opportunity at a real job. His mother, Wendy Bickford, couldn’t be more pleased. “He likes his independence, he wants to be independent,” she said. “I think it’s awesome that they’re giving him the chance to do it. It’ll be a good ego boost for him.”’

Kris Osgood is a freelance writer living on Vinalhaven.