Funny how people end up doing what they do. Growing up in a small Pennsylvania coal town, I never imagined being a teacher or a photographer. The thought never crossed my mind. Too focused on the day to day I guess. “Down the road” and “in the future” never occurred to me. Going to college wasn’t really something I felt sure of.
Well, I sort of feel the same is partially true for Joe and Lisa McSwain. Their paths individually were not well scripted. They explored and succeeded in lots of areas, but not necessarily because they had a grand plan. Good luck and hard work seem to have played a role.
Lisa came to Maine in 1976 after college where she studied sculpture and painting. Not a whole lot of opportunity in that line of work then. But The Apprenticeshop in Bath caught her eye and for two years she learned boatbuilding and worked in local restaurants to keep the wolves away. One thing led to another and she landed in Boothbay Harbor, eventually partnering with Craig Andrews. Together they took over the old Blue Ship restaurant next to the footbridge and started Andrews’ Harborside, arguably one of the most successful eateries in the Harbor.
Joe studied education at UConn and Brown, then moved to Maine in 1981 where he worked at Goodwill-Hinkley for a few years but chose to move on with his cousin Butch to form a steeple restoration company. He likes to say that climbing steeples was a lot safer than teaching. I concur, although steeples I seldom climbed! He worked on many projects throughout Maine and Massachusetts until selling the company in 2018.
Now both retired, Joe and Lisa have embarked upon their next adventure, “Mid Maine Millwork.”
As you can see from the attached photograph, neither Joe nor Lisa have slowed down much. In fact, truth be known, they have ramped up production with their latest enterprise. Their substantial mill is quite amazing. It’s like a horizontal band saw which slices out boarding like a knife through butter using logs acquired locally.
The amount of tree work going on in the region keeps them well supplied. I even bought some boards they sawed for home projects. The mill is portable so it can be hauled to work on location. People can use material created from trees harvested on their land, saving some expense in these times of increased building costs. It has been a satisfying transition from restaurant work and steeples while maintaining a restful and relaxing vacation home in the Bahamas!
In her spare time Lisa has kept quite busy with a gardening business. Check in with Joe and Lisa in a few years to see how things are progressing with their plans to build an ark and a small add-on to the international space station. You just never know!