Under the family Christmas tree in 1999 there were jumpsuits for each member of the Chase family: Phoebe, Meg, Freddy, Penny and Addison. The five of us were preparing to start a business together.

As the new year began, we all put on those jumpsuits and got to work, and we were hard at it for the next six months, discovering the hidden beauty of the space that would become Chase’s Daily. We tore down plastered walls and suspended ceilings, ripped up linoleum, uncovered bricked-over windows.

After the demolition, we refurbished the wooden floors, painted the new walls and the existing tin ceiling, designed the kitchen, built counters, booths and tables, and resourced equipment. In the midst of all this chaos, we interviewed and hired staff and created a menu. Townsfolk were noticing the activity. People wandered through the space with questions and remarks. Even then, the community was behind us, though many folks were doubtful that a vegetarian restaurant would fly in a little town like Belfast.

We set July 1, 2000, as opening day, ready or not. During all this busy-ness on Main Street in Belfast, Meg and Addison had somehow managed to grow some vegetables and flowers at the farm in Freedom. We needed to begin harvesting and selling them. So, Phoebe fired up her ovens early that morning and made bread and muffins. Freddy and I put on aprons and prepared to cook some breakfast. We opened the doors and people came in.

Over the years Chase’s Daily has employed 539 people. We are grateful to these dedicated employees who helped to make Chase’s Daily the wonderful place that it became. We heard accolades from customers all the time: “There is no place like this.” “I moved to Belfast because of you.” “Don’t ever close.” “It’s a work of art.” “My 18-year-old daughter has been coming here all her life.” “It’s magical.”

My family is proud of what we accomplished. Maintaining a family business in which the five of us had an equal say and necessary functions is no easy feat. We were all in it together from day one, along with the grandkids who came along later. Romy began “working” the dining room at age 5, and Cleo took the place by storm in recent years.

Over the past 22 years there has been a lot of laughter and many tears. Now we look forward  to stepping back, resting, playing, and thinking about what the future holds. Thank you to the many people who celebrated with us at Chase’s Daily on New Year’s Eve. Above all, thank you to all of our customers, near and far, who graced us with their presence through the years.

Penny Chase