Sleepless in Saco, a trio of coffee shops open this summer

Can she do for Saco what she did for Knightville?

“There is nobody like us around here. We want to become a destination,” says Jeannie Dunnigan, the rollerskating owner of Cia in South Portland who is opening a second cafe in downtown Saco in June.

The energetic entrepreneur and her husband Bill purchased a house at 9 Beach Street a year ago. After months of renovations they reconfigured the layout inside and out. Countless trips to Saco City Hall yielded new zoning for outdoor seating. Cia, which stands for coffee ice cream and art, will open as summer descends.

“I am so excited I can’t tell you,” said Sandy O’Connor, a Saco resident who lives next door.

Dunnigan goes over her plans in her Saco cafe.

Providing seating for up to 48 people and parking for 12 cars, her second Cia is much more than a place to grab a cup. With an inviting outdoor cafe in the works, a menu that includes breakfast sandwiches on homemade English muffins, paninis, BLT’s and hummus wraps, Cia will be “comfortable, casual and friendly,” said Dunningan, who lives in the neighborhood. “We just want to keep it real.”

And modern.

By paneling walls with reclaimed barn board and repurposing hand-hewn beams as pillars she is transforming a stodgy doctor’s office into a vibrant gathering space. Add boutique-y items like bags from Alaina Marie and local artisan jewelry, and this residential strip will soon beat with a new pulse.

Former doctor’s waiting room-turned cafe space.

“I have a vision,” said Dunnigan, who will be serving Gifford’s Ice Cream and brewing Wicked Joe Coffee. She will open with nitro cold brew on tap, the hottest emergent trend in cold coffee. Though located on the road to Ferry Beach, “this is geared for the locals, not the tourists,” she said.

Dunnigan’s move follows closely on the heels of Quiero Cafe, which opened nearby in May, and a third barista bar called The Rugged Spruce, which will serve Speckled Ax coffee on Main Street. Saco’s caffeine renaissance comes right on time for lovers of the bean, who have had to cross the bridge to Elements in Biddeford for a decent fix.

Erik Squire of The Rugged Spruce opens soon near the post office.

Moving to Saco from Portland recently, Erik Squire missed community gathering spots like Black Cat Coffee on Stevens Avenue. So the 25 year old is opening his own. At The Rugged Spruce, 209 Main St., he plans to carry pastries from Standard Baking Co. and prepare breakfast sandwiches with local, cage-free eggs.

The Machias native is completely redoing the sunny storefront and adding a fully loaded espresso bar. We wholeheartedly applaud this trend.

Because Dunnigan has been such a force turning SoPo’s Knightville neighborhood around, she knows what it takes to awaken and build community. “I hope this inspires other people to open businesses here,” she said of the sleepy town sandwiched between Scarborough and Biddeford. “The more the merrier.”


Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.