Motorists traveling past Anglers Restaurant on Route 1 have been taking a second look at the popular family diner recently.

Gone is the familiar faded light yellow siding with reddish trim. The new color scheme features a deep royal red with dark accenting trim along with a new sign that will soon be installed.

Anglers General Manager Sheila Hall said the new color scheme is “bold and exciting” and the response from patrons has been "incredible." The facade is “very noticeable,” she said, and added, “we’re not sure if we could have done it without the grant.”

Searsport’s Facade Improvement Grant program offers matching funding of up to $5,000 to restore or renovate commercial storefronts and restaurants. Some improvements outlined in the grant terms include painting, window or door repair or replacement, signage, awnings, gutter repair or replacement, and repair or replacement of exterior hardware and lighting fixtures.

The improvement program is funded through the town’s Tax Increment Financing District and is administered through the Economic Development Office, with individual approvals made by selectmen.  The Facade Program is geared to commercial properties; residential and multifamily rentals are ineligible.

According to the guidelines, the board will evaluate and determine eligibility based on a set of criteria, and make grant awards to projects having the greatest impact on enhancing the business community. Ineligible improvements include any new construction, interior renovations, purchase of property or equipment, decorative fencing, roof repairs and sidewalks.

Any construction, renovation or facade improvement proposed for historic buildings must meet Searsport Historic Preservation Commission requirements and have approval prior to being eligible for a grant match under this program.

Dean Bennett, economic development director, said Anglers is the first recipient of the matching grant. It just shows what a town can do. “It’s not a lot, but it shows Searsport stands behind their businesses.”

Bennett hopes to encourage business startups in the downtown area and further private investment. He also hopes the initiative will reduce vacant storefronts, enhance appearances and encourage pride in Searsport’s business community.

Hall said R. H. Lambeth Builders did an "amazing" job throughout — scraping the walls of old paint and replacing old trim. “We got really lucky with the weather, too,” she said.

Restaurant owner Bud Hall referred to the facelift as “our mid-life crisis,” Sheila, who is Bud's former daughter-in-law, said, adding that he was very excited at how it turned out.  “Buddy is kind of a strong personality, and he is very opinionated,” and originally wanted to update the restaurant with a similar color scheme, she said.

With the aid of a computer program that can simulate different color palettes, Sheila was able to convince Bud to go bold. “I took a picture and sent it to him in Florida,” she said. “Kind of great?” she asked, to which Bud replied, “Kind of eating my words right now.”

The application process was straightforward, she said. “I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of the program.”

About the building, “There was a lot of gray before,” Sheila said. “Now it’s bold and exciting. We are so happy with the outcome.”

For more information on the Facade Improvement Grant program, contact Town Manager James Gillway or Bennett at 548-6372 to set up an appointment.