Itty Bitty Coffee Shop co-owner Kelley Hughes shows her daughter, Lydia Cabot, 14, how to froth milk at the espresso machine. (Philip Conner photo)

After months of delays, the Itty Bitty Coffee Shop in Harpswell Center will have a “soft opening” from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

Starting Dec. 12, the tiny coffee shop — hence its name — will be open every Tuesday-Saturday, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Kelley Hughes and her husband and co-owner, George Cabot IV, had planned to launch the business this past July or August, but were stymied by water issues and by the time it took to obtain state inspections.

“It took months rather than weeks,” said Hughes, who was smiling and seemed only slightly agitated by the setbacks. Cabot said they had to install three different water treatment systems.

The final state inspection was OK’d on Tuesday, Nov. 14. On Friday, Nov. 17, Hughes was readying the shop for business. Cups and saucers were lined up. A menu was on a board with prices for coffee, tea, hot chocolate and espresso. Coffee machines, along with containers for baking supplies, were at the ready. Only the baked goods, most of which she’ll make on-site herself, were missing.

Before the soft opening, Cabot, who helped renovate the building, will hang oversized Itty Bitty signs outside the building. “Look for the open flag,” advised Hughes, in a nod to the daily knocks at the door by would-be customers confounded that the shop seemed ready to serve coffee, yet its doors remained shut.

“I’ve had visitors for months and haven’t been able to open,” she said. “I’m excited to serve them.”  

Hughes is the founder and former owner of Wildflours Gluten-Free Bakery, which she sold in April, “the same week I closed on this building,” she said.

The shop is in historic Harpwell Center, across from the Harpswell Scout Hall and near Elijah Kellogg Church, Centennial Hall, the Harpswell Historical Society Museum, and the 1759 meetinghouse and graveyard.

The building was home to the Harpswell Anchor from 2000-2020. Harpswell News, the nonprofit that has published the Anchor since 2021, has never occupied the building.

Itty Bitty will be “mostly grab and go,” Hughes added, with sitting room for only about a half-dozen people, some on an antique green Victorian sofa she got from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. In the summer, customers can take a seat on an Adirondack chair on the shop’s lawn. “There will be no Wi-Fi,” she emphasized, noting she’d rather have people talk to one another.

A native of Standish, Hughes, 54, and her family live in Brunswick. Hughes will be the only person staffing the coffee shop. She said if there’s a line of customers waiting to be served, they’ll just have to be patient. Her teenage daughter, Lydia Cabot, will help in the summer.

The menu will include coffee drinks made from small-batch-roasted Crossroads Coffee Beans from Rockland, whose motto is “Life’s too short to drink bad coffee.”

There also will be egg sandwiches and a rotating menu of baked goods. But on this day there was no orange juice in a small cooler with bottled water and other juices and drinks. And there won’t be any until the soft opening. “It spoiled every time we thought we were going to open,” she said, and had to be thrown out.

Connie Sage Conner is a retired editor of The Virginian-Pilot. She lives in Harpswell and serves on the Harpswell News Board of Directors.