Does Boothbay Have a Vodka Problem?

Booze king Paul Coulombe wants to upgrade a coastal Maine town into a luxury destination. He says he just wants to save a dying hamlet. But his neighbors think he’s putting them on the road to ruin.

Part of the problem is that Boothbay is stuck in touristic no man’s land. Unlike Kennebunkport to the south, and Camden and Rockport to the north, Boothbay isn’t situated directly off the vital north-south artery that is Route 1. And unlike Bar Harbor, there isn’t a breathtaking national park named Acadia right next door. Which helps explain why Boothbay proper, a couple of miles north of the ocean, couldn’t be less quaint. The busiest part of the area is basically a strip mall across the street from a Hannaford; one of the more popular breakfast joints is located at a Sunoco gas station.

Its neighboring communities aren’t much better off. Directly south of Boothbay is touristy, waterfront Boothbay Harbor, where the vibe in summer is much more saltwater taffy. Off-season, though, the place is dead. My first night in Boothbay Harbor, I make the mistake of walking into a restaurant called McSeagull’s after 9 p.m., only to find the kitchen closed. I plead ignorance, telling the bartender I’m not a local. “I know,” he says. “I’ve never seen you before.” Located just south of Boothbay Harbor, Southport Island, where Coulombe lives, is almost completely residential. (Ecologist and author Rachel Carson also lived in Southport.) Until the late 19th century, all three areas, which together total some 6,000 permanent residents, were considered part of Boothbay.

Lincoln County, where Boothbay Harbor is situated, has a higher unemployment rate than nearly all of the counties adjacent to it. It’s also home to the oldest population in the state, which, considering Maine also boasts the highest median age of any state in the country, means it’s really quite ancient. After decades of economic lethargy, Lincoln County has recently begun to lose its population for the first time since the 1930s.

Perhaps as a result, the weekly Boothbay Register is no longer in the habit of publishing anti-growth screeds like Randall’s. Reading some of the articles it has published about Coulombe and his efforts, you’d have no clue he was a deeply polarizing figure in town. “Small communities are somewhat known for being resistant to change,” says Kevin Burnham, the paper’s longtime editor. “They like the landscape the way it is. They are satisfied with their way of life. But Paul’s outlook is to make the region a little more vibrant than it has been for the past quarter-century.” Burnham’s decision to publish mostly benign, straight-news accounts of Coulombe’s various exploits may be a journalistic one. But during our interview in his office, he also seems a little relieved that somebody has decided to shake things up: “I’m 59 years old. I’ve seen the good times and the bad times around here. And it is stagnant.”

When I called Richard Ford, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who lives in East Boothbay, I anticipated at least a degree of haughty scorn for Coulombe. Instead, Ford seemed mostly optimistic about whatever stimulus, economic or otherwise, his presence portended. “Nobody’s view of a community is definitive,” he said. “You have to have commerce in a town like Boothbay. So one person’s idea of historical preservation is another person’s idea of being out of work.”

Coulombe has given the town plenty of reasons to like him: He’s put his money into the YMCA, an opera house, a regional healthcare center, even a new fisherman’s pier. It seems like a simple enough equation: town needs boost. Man provides boost. So why the hell does Boothbay detest its largest benefactor?

Here’s one theory: Paul Coulombe has an unlikely PR problem on his hands. Ask him if there’s any real difference in flavor between his vodkas—between any vodkas, really—and he’ll chuckle: “It’s all marketing, packaging, totally.” For a man who so intuitively understands the power of branding, though, he has failed miserably at selling his vision to the Boothbay community.

And he’s paid dearly for it. Little by little, as Coulombe moved ahead with his big plans, he began to lose little battles. Under scrutiny from environmentalists, he abandoned his plan to dredge a nearby cove to more easily dock his 29-foot yacht. There was also the issue of the speed bumps, which he lobbied unsuccessfully to remove. After he had erected a pricey (by Boothbay standards) new restaurant in Southport, a few rocks ended up getting dumped in the backseat of his car. (“I did find a few rocks in a car, but do not know who did it,” Coulombe wrote me in an email, adding, “It was the Rolls and no damage.”)

Since then, the residents of Southport voted to deny the restaurant a liquor license. This shouldn’t surprise Coulombe much. The first time he attended a town meeting on Southport Island, Coulombe says, “It was really horrible; everybody in the whole island showed up. I didn’t know how angry they were.” (One member of the anti-Coulombe faction remarked, “If his intelligence is like his taste, he won’t know that a huge population of the town is just livid.”)

paul coulombe

Bet Finocchiaro | Photograph by Gabe Souza

The biggest thorn in his side has proved to be Bet Finocchiaro, the longtime owner of a wildly popular fried-fish stand, and the “hub of the town’s wheel,” as Coulombe’s contractor, Steve Malcom, puts it. Bet’s Fish Fry, adorned with a delightfully garish bikini-clad mermaid, features a sign that (every day) reads, “Free Beer Tomorrow.” It also happens to sit directly between Coulombe’s two central projects: the Boothbay Common and the golf club’s lavish new entrance. Coulombe wanted the land. But Bet—it would seem wrong to refer to her by her last name—refused to sell before she even heard Coulombe’s offer. (She eventually allowed him to use a narrow slice of her property in exchange for a refurbished picnic-table area, which he developed.)

“This is what I get from everybody,” Bet says when I meet her at her home, a cozy 18th-century post-and-beam house that was refurbished by her husband, a shipwright. “‘Bet, I’m so proud of you, you said no to that prick.’” Next, she asks me what I think of him. I try to say something vague and impartial. “He’d be nobody I’d want to be a friend with,” she says, not really listening to my answer. “I mean, what would we say to him? We could go and drink his alcohol and eat his fancy cheeses?” Before I leave, Bet hatches a plan to deal with him, should anything get out of hand. “If he starts pissing me off, or infringing upon my territory,” she swears, “it’s going to be ‘Free Golf Tomorrow.’”


One of the most beloved figures in Boothbay’s history is the late Marylouise Cowan, who married early into the Tandy RadioShack fortune and was for many years a leading benefactor in the community. But her sort of wealth—earned through marriage, spent with WASP restraint—is the kind Boothbay doesn’t really mind. “I have often been so impressed by how polite and unhurried they are,” says the Historical Society’s Rumsey, of the wealthy summer residents. “These people who have very important jobs, you know, kind of run around a little tight-lipped. And I would think, What a wonderful way to be. Very graceful.”

Whatever the opposite of that is, Coulombe’s home embodies it. The day after we toured the golf club, he invites me over for dinner, and then to spend the night in the property’s guest house. (Full disclosure: I accepted the invite but declined to take home with me the golf shirt and the baseball cap, emblazoned with a lobster logo and navigational coordinates, that he offers to all his overnight houseguests.) Our evening begins with a nearly hourlong tour of the grounds, which takes us through four different buildings and an underground tunnel. The infinity pool leads to the outdoor bar, which leads to the “boat house,” near where Lionel Richie performed during Coulombe’s wedding—which leads to an “entertainment room” where his stepchildren play Call of Duty on a 103-inch TV, and which, roughly 45 minutes or so later, brings us at last to the “master wing,” i.e., the actual building where the living and the eating and the sleeping get done.

In the master wing, Coulombe gestures toward the aforementioned Versailles-replica chandelier, in 14-karat-gold, which he hired French artisans to build. “It’s really simplistic, but it’s actually gold,” he says. “It’s worth more than most homes are worth.” Nodding politely is Boothbay Harbor Country Club general manager John Suczynski, who will be joining us for dinner. Nearby, Coulombe shows off a mirror that doubles as a television. Eventually, the thing comes to life and a woman’s face, instead of mine, appears before me. “Hello,” she says. “I’m First Lady Ann LePage.” Coulombe moves to turn it off. “That’s the governor’s wife,” he says. “She’s been here many times.” (Coulombe gave $160,000 to the Maine Republican party in 2014, making him the third-largest political donor in the state.)

By the time we sit down to eat—I am served roast chicken made by Giselaine and a 2010 Argentinian malbec poured into a glass the size of a small nuclear warhead—Coulombe has become a little self-conscious about all the splendor. “All my friends that are contemporaries that are wealthy,” he says, “even those guys are always mad at me. They’re always like, ‘Why do you do that? All you do is cause everyone not to like you. You drive a big-ass Rolls-Royce. People don’t like that.’ I say, ‘You know what? I don’t give a shit what they like because I like it. That’s all that matters.’”

His defiance is flaring up now. “I really like luxuries,” he continues. “I really like them. I like crystal beer glasses. I really enjoy it. I like nice cars and nice homes and great swimming pools and good food and I really enjoy every bit—and I always did.”

To Coulombe, his conspicuous consumption is proof not that he’s out of touch, but that he is the only one with the perspective necessary to lift Boothbay out of its doldrums. “I was here in 1960,” he says. “I came to Boothbay. I saw how busy it was. The traffic was lined up to Route 1. I mean, you couldn’t even drive into Boothbay, it was insane.” He goes on. “The people that say they don’t want change are the people that have no knowledge, and they’re ignorant of economics. You know, it’s a guy that’s a lobsterman, which, there’s a lot of them. It’s a guy at the local gas station. It’s the guy, you know, cleaning beds in the local motel…. They’re all unemployed in the winter and drinking at McSeagull’s. So I don’t think that’s good. I mean, the men still beat the wives.”

Buried somewhere deep in this thicket of offensive non sequiturs seems to be a well-intentioned point about the necessity of good, year-round jobs. But eventually, the potentially disastrous PR consequences of rants like these begin to dawn on him. After our interview, he emails me to ask if he can see a copy of my article before it goes to print. He doesn’t explain why, and I don’t acquiesce. But the reason for the request is clear. As he’d told me at one point over dinner, “I don’t want the town to resent me more than they already do.”


It’s probably not an enjoyable sensation to be hated by a large swath of a given population. But aside from a couple of minor development setbacks, and some irreversible reputational harm, Paul Coulombe is probably going to get his way in the long run. On the Saturday morning before I depart Boothbay, I head down to the tip of Southport Island for a town meeting that is taking place, quite literally, on a slippery slope—or, if you insist, a bunch of large, slippery rocks. The meeting concerns Coulombe’s lighthouse/luxury inn, and the dock he wants to build for the purpose of ferrying his guests to and fro.

More than a dozen concerned residents have shown up to voice their concerns about safety hazards or navigational annoyances posed by the project. Some mild complaints will be lodged, but for the most part, it seems the attendees are here less to try and stymie his plans than to bolster their own, possibly dwindling, sense of agency over the fate of the island.

Once everybody arrives, Gerry Gamage kicks off the proceedings. “Southport Board of Selectmen, site of PGC 4 LLC—”

A middle-aged woman with a head of formerly strawberry-blond hair interrupts him. “What the hell does PGC 4 LLC stand for? Do you mind telling us? It’s just annoying!” Gamage finishes his spiel, then looks up. “PGC 4 stands for Paul G. Coulombe, number four. LLC.”

Twenty minutes later, Gamage, satisfied with the input, adjourns the meeting. I ask him what will happen next. “We’re going to vote on it,” he says. “It’s fair to say we’ll approve it.”

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  • Curt Carlson

    A small tight-nit coastal community struggles to keep protect its fragile identity against a Mr. Potter/Rodney Dangerfield like character up at the Snooty Golf Club? Sounds like an eighties movie screenplay, (maybe an East Coast Goonies reboot). But seriously, this is a well written piece that highlights an interesting problem for “Vacationland”, from the slow decline of the paper-mill industry and its ever aging population. New money guys with deep pockets trying to squeeze their way into small town makes Mainers nervous. Its natural to resent and mistrust those that want to turn your hometown into a gaudy tourist trap. Especially when the guy doing it feels like he’s doing you a favor and doesn’t necessarily need your permission to do it.

    • Sea Dog

      Curt – Paul Coulombe needed permission – that’s why one goes before the Boothbay Planning Board. Come down to earth for awhile – good chance you would meet Paul Coulombe there.

      • Margaret Perritt

        Did not the town vote against the plan to put a roundabout at the entrance to the Country Club which would have taken some of the Common away as well as nearby buildings? Permission has not always been granted. . .It will be interesting to see what happens as the “Village” around the Common is re-created with boutiques and restaurants. The way it was in the past?

        • Silas Townsend

          Boothbay common is a dump today. Any renovation should be a very welcome thing. If the buildings in Boothbay Common are so valuable then somebody should have restored or updated them long ago. The Boothbay region desperately needs investment. Youth will not stay in an area where there is no future. Tourists will not want to visit a fallen down ghost town. Seniors will not want to retire to the empty husk of a once vibrant community.

        • Sea Dog

          So the system worked – and you’re still complaining.

          “The way it was in the past?” 1721???

          • Margaret Perritt

            A little sarcasm… Of course there were not boutiques and restaurants in the past. In this case, the past is gone and whatever comes will not be a village center any more than Colonial Williamsburg is an accurate portrayal of colonial Virginia. No complaints here….it would be pointless as the damage has been done.

          • Sea Dog

            So where was this plan of a ‘Colonial Boothbay’ that you allege was ‘damaged?’ In your imagination?

  • Barnaby Hendricks

    All and all, a pretty well researched piece. Amusingly, at times it almost evokes sympathy for Mr. Moneybags and his mustachioed henchman. I suspect it will be a very cold day in Boothbay before PGC invites another columnist for dinner and the night.

  • Selina Reid

    I am a life time resident of the community Mr. Coulombs speaks of and I take issue with his comments concerning Boothbays resident community. My husband is one of those individuals who makes the bed in that hotel room you speak of. In addition he cooks at another hotel and manages to keep us afloat year round. He does this by traveling out of state in the winters and working there. Is it an ideal situation? No! But living in a community that’s isolated geographically and that is built solely on the tourist trade in the summer it’s our only option. I too would leave but am responsible for the care of my aging mother who also made those beds and cooked that food and did whatever she had to do to care for her family in this quaint little tourist mecca. Why does this man feel he is above those who built worked and slaved in this community long before he arrived. We were raised with a strong work ethic and a strong love for family and community. I have never been beaten by my no good alcoholic low life worker and I myself have never taken a dime of assistance from my state even though I have worked and now work at one of those boothbay establishments that only pay minimum wage and part time so as not to have to pay benefits. I’m not complaining about my life or my job I actually feel blessed to have a job that will continue to pay me and employ me thru the winter. Many here are not so lucky and that sir is why we have a problem with substance abuse here. Instead of judging and criticising the community create an industry that will allow us to work year round instead of lining your own pocket Mr. Coulombe.
    Sincerely, Selina Reid proud native of Boothbay Harbor Maine

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  • Charlie Bamberg

    The author of the article definitely did not visit the community I proudly call home. The article definitely takes quotes out of context to weave a story that has an inaccurate agenda as well as not recognizing the “sense of community”. A Sunoco gas station with a restaurant? Are we talking about T & D’s that is a convenient store that offers food and a place to eat should you opt no take it “out”. And when is a 29 foot boat considered a “yacht”? Those who visit yearly, or chose to retire in the Region, or families from out of state that own cottages, or those “from away” have made Boothbay their home know all that the area offers and the opportunities to become part of the community — an area that is not stagnant. Let’s see…….we have the Coastal Botantical Gardens (one the country’s top recognized gardens), Boothbay Railway Village (having one of the largest car collections in New England along with an active narrow gauge railroad and village setting), St. Andrew’s Village, a high school with state championship teams over the years, Ocean Point, great restaurants and year around lodging, the world renown Center for Teaching and Learning at the North end of the peninsula, Bigelow Labs in East Boothbay, Hodgdon Yachts (boats that are bigger than 29 feet), a hospital that offers limited services, and yes, an 18 hole golf course. I guess where food is not available past 9:00 PM at a restaurant makes the “region” ……what’s that? Sad, the author missed what the area and its residents are — more than a “box” agenda. Signed, Charlie Bamberg….who calls East Boothbay his home

    • Peter Pan

      Thanks, Charlie. You are right.

    • Margaret Perritt

      No longer a hospital. Now the Coloumbe Wellness Center and part-time Urgent Care Center.

      • Silas Townsend

        The Hospital was closing, that is not Paul Coloumbe’s fault. If you do not like that the Hospital was closing, blame Lincoln County Healthcare.

        • Margaret Perritt

          I was simply correcting the item “hospital that offers limited services” on Charlie’s list. It really is not a hospital any more and we all know who made the changes. Some of us were surprised when Mr. Coulombe dropped $1.1 million on them for a wellness center…. but, hey, it’s his money.

        • Mackenziella

          Could be the result of machinations taking place at the state governed town of MRRA calling itself the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, although all the federal and state tax payer dollars that city -state hauls in are invested within its own municipal borders ! There it sits with its arrogant name in close proximity to Midcoast Hospital, which is said to be where we will ultimately go when Miles suffers the same fate as St Andrews, The city state appears to be following a communist model in which the state owns the means of production and intellectual property rights as written into the many charters of the state corporations that are situated at the state court of MRRA all sold to the Maine voters as “job creation” I’ll wager that many of the people who are so afraid of one private person using his own money voted for those bonds that are being used to develop the state governed towns of MRRA and Lorring.

          MRRA where incomes soar to the upper quarter of Maine’s economy would likely covet the peninsula of Boothbay for their own private country club and have to figure out how to get its elderly population to relocate to an urban center- say the one they are creating around Brunswick? Hmm- they don;t need that hospital do they? Who can we buy to get that hospital removed?

    • Rebecca Eileen Copland

      That pretty well sums it up….Good points made. …

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      • Jennifer Brown

        I agree

  • Michelle Zonneveld

    Just wondering why the scam post is posted and not mine…..

    • Michelle Zonneveld

      Oh my God……is the problem I saidd he brides and lies or I used the word that calls him a donkey….

  • Michelle Zonneveld

    Ok….so I can’t call him the word meaning a donkey……I’m a vet that was raised in Boothbay…..from a good family and I’m shocked that “Mr.” Coulombe can’t figure out why a small town like my how town would not only hate him or wish he went home…..fix your own home town….it’s not like you didn’t only insult all of us but what jobs have you given……I suggest I ICE visit none of my friend know one American let alone local that has a job from you……

  • Sea Dog

    I hope you didn’t step on any of the knuckles your ‘Interviewees’ were dragging on the ground as they vociferated about Mr. Coulombe.

  • Paul Adams

    In 1764 a man named Samuel Adams came to Boothbay and settled on the West side of Adams Pond. He was a minister and a carpenter. He built the first church in Boothbay and preached there. This man was the first of my family to come here.

    In the summer of 2014 Boothbay celebrated it’s 250th birthday attented by hundreds of people both locals and those from away. Boothbay was a pretty little Coastal Maine community.

    Alas, along comes Coulombe who begins by renaming the Boothbay Country Club the Boothbay HARBOR Country club then he plants a screen of trees along the road that blocks one of the best views in the town from the cemetery down across the golf course. After that the demolition started as house after house, tree after tree came under attack and the pretty little New England village was changed forever and sadly this is probably just the beginning of his rampage.


    • Sea Dog

      Paul – Got it bad?? Simply imagine how the Native Americans felt when your people got here..

      • Lailakins

        So, to understand correctly, you do think what Coulombe is doing to the Boothbay region, as being along the lines of what was done to the Native Americans, right?

        • Sea Dog

          Of course you didn’t understand ‘correctly’ – but injected you own opinion.

          • Lailakins

            Oh yikes, not trying to get nasty, was just trying to understand the comparison that you made…

          • Sea Dog

            Try to understand ‘Irony’ and ‘Sarcasm’

            Paul Adams’ ancestor whom he refers to (most likely to give himself bragging rights) – most likely didn’t compensate the indigenous peoples for the land that was taken from them. Compare that to Paul Coulombe’s purchases from willing sellers.

          • Lailakins

            Oh but “Sea Dog” I do understand irony and sarcasm…I’m sorry you were not able to pick up on it yourself in my responses.
            Are you not injecting your own opinion (something you seem to not like) about Mr. Adams with the assumption of why he referred to his ancestor? I understood it to show his lineage and connection to the region, and also his purpose for including that in his comment.
            I’m not sure why you’re telling me to make the comparison when you brought it up. I don’t find that the two things align at all in similarities, which is why I asked for clarification in your response to Mr. Adams.

          • Sea Dog

            Better retake those writing/composition courses, along with reading comprehension. It would be good for what ails you.

          • Lailakins

            My what a high horse you sit upon, Sea Dog. I’m wondering if you realize that comments such as those, put you on the same level as the man whose writing you seem to have a problem with? 😉 I’m almost certain you’ll have some sort of “winning” insult to fire back, but I think I’m done checking in here, I choose to spend my time in constructive, productive conversations. 🙂

          • Sea Dog

            The ‘Nuns’ taught us proper grammar. You slid through school where????

          • Jennifer Brown

            you are simply rude. period. “Sea Dog”

      • Lorri HIggins

        exactly !

    • Silas Townsend

      Jim Reeves patented the name “Boothbay Country Club”. The country club was forced to change the name or be sued by the previous owner.

      Why does renaming the country club tarnish the legacy of your ancestors?

      • Lailakins

        I don’t believe Mr. Adams ever said that it did, Mr. Townsend. And I don’t think it’s so much that they changed the name of the country club, but rather what they changed it to–while no, it is not our money, so therefore not our decision, he is trying to make it a landmark in our community. The deceitful name does not sit well with many–we may “just be the locals,” but we tend to pride ourselves in what we present to those that visit us. Lies and grandeur have not gotten us to where we are now.

    • Sarah Johnson

      Samuel Adams is my sixth-generation grandfather (Samuel > Samuel > Rufus > Charles > Sybil > Stanley > Thomas > me)!
      I stumbled across this article doing research on my family tree.

      • Paul Adams

        Hello Cousin–glad to meet you!!

  • Sea Dog

    Bet Finocchiaro recently spoke to Boothbay Region Television’s Jonne Trees about the Boothbay Harbor Country Club’s expansion near her business, Bet’s Fish Fry.”

    • Mark Gimbel

      Great idea posting this Seadog!

      • Sea Dog

        The article’s author obviously neglected ‘Due Diligence’ in his research.

    • Jennifer Brown

      omg..Bet you are so hard to not love! (even though I do not love your neighbor) sorry 🙁

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  • Mackenziella

    At least Paul Mr.Coulombs is own person speaking his own mind without pretense- whether anyone likes it or not, he is not pretending to be anything other than who he is- we should fear the ones who are pretending- specifically our state legislature and the courtdom they established as a municipality governed by the state named as “a regional development authority” head-quarters of Maine’s Corporate Welfare beneficiaries collecting an unending stream of tax payer dollars used to invest in their own municipality just a 45 minute drive from Boothbay located at a former naval base once used to defend the American way of life- now used to transform it. -otherwise known as the town of MRRA. In the spirit of MRRA’s name they likely have Comlombs styled designs on the Boothbay Peninsula but unlike Coulombs they will use other peoples money in attempts to implement their vision over the existing populous- and that other peoples money will be sourced by means of taxation from the pockets of the existing populous they intend to replace,

    Mr Coulombs isn’t using your money to transform your world, he is using his money to transform what is the world which he inhabits and so it is as much his world as it is the world of any other inhabitant.

    • Jennifer Brown

      seriously..get over yourself

  • Observer

    Re: Simon
    Haters gotta hate

  • coolsolarguy

    I found this article to be extremely nasty. Too bad that Simon Wood doesn’t appreciate coastal Maine. The Boothbay region is Maine’s the most popular area for a day trip, according to the last couple of surveys. Boothbay Harbor was selected as the 2nd most beautiful village, just behind Camden, but ahead of Bar Harbor and Kennebunk. Yes, we are a drinking village with a bad fishing habit, but that’s why I moved here. But a lot of the poor lobstermen typically earn more than $100K/yr, which they earn the hard way, and we’re proud of them. In the summer there’s over 50,000 people living at the end of this beautiful peninsula. Yes the average income is low, and the average age is high, but that because this is where smart people choose to retire to. I’m not a golfer, but I have no problem with Paul Coulomb pursuing his goals, as long as he’s treating others well. I do have a problem with the tone of this article.

    • Silas Townsend

      This was a terrible article leverage against Boothbay. The Boothbay region has been dying for 10 years or more. It is regrettable that people are against reviving this area. Jobs are scarce because there is no work. In a tourist town, there is no work when there are no tourists. You can replace the tourists with fulltime residents, but retirees aged 80 and up do not spend very much money. No development means no jobs. No jobs means all the kids move away. Who will be welcome in Maine when everybody under the age of 50 has left for work elsewhere?

      • Lailakins

        As a not so long ago “kid of the region” I recently moved back…and know of many peers who have as well. Finding employment was not a problem for my husband nor myself. Your vehement support and defense of Mr. Coulombe is quite admirable. It’s unfortunate that you cannot see (and perhaps that’s your agenda and reason for being here in this forum, as you just joined this platform today) that what Paul Coulombe is doing/attempting to do is not revive our town (that does not reviving), but rather turn it into his own personal playground. This town is not dying, as with all things, there is an ebb and flow of change. Due to economics, and a vast number of varying reasons, our town will not consistently bustle every year. We have a Chamber of Commerce, along with several committees of truly concerned and passionate residents working to shift that…it is not up to one person to swoop in and “fix”. That alone is a red flag. For a bunch of supposed bumbling idiots, we seem to have made it this far doing things “our way,” I think it is safe to say we would have been just fine keeping on that track.

        • Jennifer Brown

          thank you Laikins..and I agree. Totally agree.

  • jannabrown

    As someone from away who has spent a lot of time with her family on Southport, one of the saddest days of my life turned out to be connected to a beloved Southport family’s sale of their private property in the vicinity of Pratt’s Cove to Mr. Couloumbe. That cove and the hill behind it that generations of parents and children had clambered over to get to the granite overlooking the sea, that the kids could crawl down into for purposes of finding small sea creatures in tide pools… That was the initial blow. Suddenly it was made private and turned into an estate with an infinity pool and guest houses and tunnels, etc. That the kids of those kids can no longer clamber over that hill and over the rocks and perch on the granite lookout and crawl down into the tide pools that Rachel Carson also loved… I suspect that is where Mr. Couloumbe did not understand what he was taking away from a region, it’s local inhabitants and the many visitors who came out of love for the place.

    • Silas Townsend

      If you liked that property so much you should have bought it. You had just as much opportunity as Paul Coulombe.

    • Sea Dog

      jannabrown – This is ‘America’ – “Willing Seller and Willing Buyer” have rights. Your problem with that???

      • Jennifer Brown

        not all were willing..they were coerced into selling in some cases…you find that a good thing?

  • Debra Arter

    Glad he donated to YMCA and Opera House but sad that he built such an ostentatious monstrosity at the entrance to a quaint harbor town. It looks nothing like Maine! That he is buddies with LePage is probably why the Gov. is moving to be near him after Blaine House reign – they can share time in the posh entertainment center with the huge TV and chandelier. Dredging a harbor cove to make room for his yacht… really Thank goodness Bet had the guts to stand up to him!

    • Jennifer Brown

      oh yeah…Bet isn’t anyone’s fool..EVER!

  • Lailakins

    There are many glaring things in this article…I would like to point out that Paul Coulombe never put in a new fishermen’s pier…let’s be real, he used his manipulation, and marketing strategies, and he put in a pier so that boaters could access his restaurant. While it was promised to be, it is not, in any semblance, a fishermen’s pier. It is simply yet another example of how this man says and does just enough to get what he wants.

    • Jennifer Brown

      you are sooo correct! Sadly though..but you are

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  • Liquor License

    Liquor License needed?

  • Thetoe

    I see that this article has been modified to no longer include The quote where he stated that the local lobsterman, gas station workers, bar tenders, hotel workers and other year round residents are ignorant. It also now leaves out the part where he shows his disgust for mcseagulls closing the kitchen after 9 in the off season. No wonder why the residents (and I don’t mean tourists who own a tenth of an acre and a telephone pole on it) are up in arms about this guy! He is so full of himself and his money that he is willing to get an out of town publication to try and make sense of his twisted reasoning!

    • Sea Dog

      Perhaps the editor realized this screed was bordering on ‘Libel’

      • Simon vz-Wood

        Still in there, just on page 2!

        • Lorri HIggins

          rag writing, you should be ashamed

        • Sea Dog

          Simon – Your reply should have been directed toward ‘Thetoe” – he made the ‘Modification’ claim – not I.

          And your reaction to “Bet’s” (of Fish-Fry Claim) You-Tube comments? She’s setting the record straight.

    • Jennifer Brown

      you hit the nail on the head!

  • Wood

    Is this a news article on an editorial ? It seems to me that much of the ‘article’ presents Mr. Zuylen-Wood’s opinions rather than factual and factual reporting. It’s clear that he dislikes Mr. Coulombe. I guess that he didn’t dislike him enough to decline to be entertained at Mr. Coulombe’s home. The article if rife with nasty comments and descriptions. In my conversations about the article I have been told that it is also rife with half truths and inaccuracies. I have never seen a 29 foot yacht. I have rarely read such a nasty commentary.

  • Linekin

    While I believe in the right of free press I feel that you must be accurate in what you write. This article is blistered with inaccuracies and personal attacks that don’t lend anything to the premise which on the surface is a decent discussion to have. I was born in St. Andrews, I grew up here and have lived away only to find myself coming back to run a business, raise a family, and live in an area I call home. Frankly Mr. Zuylen-Wood know’s as much about this area as I know about where he lives which is zero. I feel less slighted as resident by comments made by Mr. Columbe than I do by the fact that it seems Mr. Zuylen-Wood is using Paul as a lighting rod to express a general negative and dismissive opinion of the region.

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  • Sea Dog

    Nothing in the article referencing the Boothbay Natives’ favorite ‘Sobriquet’ for folk’s from Massachusetts where this article was published:


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    • Simon vz-Wood

      Good catch, Sea Dog. We’ll fix the piece to reflect the location of the Hannaford.

    • mtbr1975

      Well, those of us from MA have our favorite insulting references for the hicks from Maine as well.

  • Seguin

    I, too, think this article had a nasty edge. I’m not sure the author was truly looking to report the truth but rather “stir the pot”. I truly believe the bottom line is that all parties involved (year round residents, summer residents and Mr. Coulombe) have a true love for the Boothbay region. We just all have different ideas about what is best for the Region. I love Boothbay/Southport as it is and would have loved it if Gus could have kept running Gus’ forever, but alas, that is not possible. After he died, that building and pier could not stay the way it was. Paul Coulombe spent his own money to build a new site and new restaurant. It is not Gus’ but it is nice and time moves on. The New Boothbay Country Club may be much bigger than some locals would like but it is nice that we still have a golf club and to be honest, the old club was a bit rough. I don’t believe the Boothbay economy is as bad as Mr. Coulombe thinks it is but we are kidding ourselves if we don’t plan for the future. Towns like ours don’t deteriorate overnight, it is usually a slow process of denial. The truth is somewhere in the middle: Maybe we don’t want quite as much progress and improvement as he does but we do need to appreciate the love he has for the region and the willingness he has to invest in it. It may be a better approach to truly try to work with him in a plan we all can live with rather than criticize every move he makes.

  • Lorri HIggins

    I don’t know what this “journalist” had to gain by being so nasty. The article was full of mean spiritedness and very unprofessional. This piece would be better suited to the National Enquirer. No matter how you feel about Paul and what he’s doing he, his wife, his home and our town did not deserve the mean, nasty and derogatory comments by this journalist. Shame on you, Simon van Zuylen-Wood .

  • Sea Dog

    “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

  • Kate Jones

    I’m shocked Boston Magazine would even publish such an article. As someone who grew up in Boothbay Harbor and now reads this article from afar, I was appalled. I’ve traveled the world, lived abroad, and still consider Boothbay Region to be a place I am truly proud to call home. The people are kind, the spirit is warm, and there is great pride and heart in the town, no matter what politics come with being a “seasonal town”. Simon Zuylen-Wood- an ignorant visitor, has unfairly (and that is an understatement) taken what appears to be his hatred for Paul Coulombe out on the town. Making derogatory and ill representing statements about the town. Not to mention titling the piece “Does Boothbay Have a Vodka Problem?”….did you think you were being clever there Mr. Z-W? Insulting to the people of Boothbay is more like it

    • saildiva

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  • Gary Murray

    I find this article to be so slanted and insulting that it is difficult to understand how a supposedly reputable periodical such as Boston Magazine could ever have published it. Paul Coulombe has done nothing but good for Boothbay and I think most of the local citizenry appreciate that. There will always be tension between progress and those who are either stuck in the past or resistant to change, so, yes, it’s true that what he is doing is not everyone’s cup of tea. But I have met him and played at his golf course and I can tell you that as for the type of person he is, he’s a warm, friendly, congenial gentleman, and concerning the golf course, what he has done to that tired old club is nothing short of miraculous. It is now, in my opinion, one of the three best courses in the state. The community should show at least a little bit of gratitude, and a fair-minded journalist would never have painted such a a negative picture.

    • Roger Christie

      I’m part of the local citizenry, and no, I don’t appreciate it. Not at all.

    • Jennifer Brown

      Well you are one of the fortunate (though I would not play at that course for any amount of money)…you have your opinion and “we” have ours. Nice that you can afford it..but even if I could afford it I would not.

  • Roger Christie

    As someone who owns a home on Southport, and who has been going there my entire life, I’m well familiar with this character. I say this: There is growth, and there is cancer. He most definitely falls into the latter category.