By Kate Rogers, Community Editor
The town of Westbrook has grown significantly in the past few years, with new businesses and organizations popping up all over to thrive with the growing community. One of those businesses is the Roots cafe, who, along with their partner organization Green Tree Ministries, aim is to provide not only healthy food options but kindness and love for the community.
The idea for the Roots cafe began when Faye Wilson, owner of Green Tree Ministries, acquired a small piece of land in Westbrook. They wanted a good avenue for the ministry, according to Lorraine Fagela, the current chief of operations at Roots. “How can we get people to come in here and really see what we are all about … just really having that kindness for the community,” Fagela said about the original goal. They wanted to open in 2017, but according to Fagela things were rough because Wilson and her husband had little experience with branding and food service.
In 2017 Fagela had been working on her own projects, running her own chip company and trying to get it spread around. Originally, Wilson wanted to buy gluten free pastries from Fagela, but Fagela knew that system would be too expensive for customers. So, in the end, she came on board and took over a large part of the project. After revamping the menu and the branding, they were able to open Roots in the summer of 2018.
“Westbrook is not Portland … the neighborhood is up and coming, there’s a need,” Fagela said about the importance of a space like Roots. “[Roots] formed just to be the center of the community where people can hang out and feel safe,” Fagela said. Even though Roots does focus on healthy and gluten free options, their food and their space is for everyone. Green Tree, which is directly next door, offers a daycare service so that parents can get time for themselves. There is also a lending library and a resource center, where people can actually check out books and take them home. “Our heart has been to serve where needed,” Fagela said.
This service extends to their food, which is crafted specifically with the customers in mind. They have crepes, quiches, cupcakes and much more. “What would I eat if I were in college or a single woman … do I wanna eat something healthy that’s gonna make me feel good?” Fagela said about her decision making process for the menu and the ingredients. Everything is fresh, simple and whole, and the coffee is organic and free trade, Fagela said.
While many of the ingredients are gluten free, they chose not to announce this right away. “Gluten free gets a bad rep … we wanted them to taste it first,” Fagela said. Fagela has spent a long time perfecting gluten free recipes and trained their chef in what she has learned. People with a gluten intolerance can eat nearly everything on the menu. According to Fagela, you would never even know it didn’t have gluten.
Fagela talked especially highly about the staff at Roots and about how they and the community are enjoying each other. “People’s lives are being changed by the interactions they have with our staff,” Fagela said. Roots is benefitting from their community just as much. “The gracefulness of the community just kinda provides us the opportunity to learn and grow,” Fagela said.
Since Roots’ goal is community health and growth, Fagela says that they do everything they can to provide not only a good and safe environment but an affordable one. For all Maine college students they provide a 10% discount, all students have to do is show their ID. “We know what it was like to be in college,” Fagela said.