Wallingford Square in Kittery, Maine had once been a thriving center of community, but its charming and historic setting had failed to sustain business for many years. The area got plenty of traffic, but with few compelling businesses, many of its storefronts sat empty. Our client, who also owns nearby Maine institution Bob’s Clam Hut, knew that the right business—a bustling cafe—could revitalize the whole neighborhood, giving Kittery back its downtown and providing the community with a place to gather. He worked with other business owners, including a gallery, a noodle bar, a juice bar, and a butcher shop to develop the neighborhood into an appealing destination. Lil’s, named after a beloved employee at Bob’s Clam Hut, was born.
It was important to the client that the transformation take its design cues from the historic city block’s existing architecture. He took ownership of an old bank, and we focused on preserving as many of its unique details as possible, while designing a busy cafe space that would allow staff to make food from scratch and move customers through quickly.
We designed counter space that allowed staff to reach sandwiches, crullers, and coffee without bumping into each other or wasting time and energy so they could get hot food in front of hungry people.
Lil’s was an immediate hit, and the business quickly took over the space next door. Today, Lil’s is open seven days a week, and the downtown around it is flourishing. Lil’s is bright and open, with big windows and smart lighting. We kept the bank’s original safety deposit boxes, building them into the countertops, winking at the neighborhood’s former glory days, welcoming that same spirit of commerce and community back to Wallingford Square.