Boothbay natives Chelsea Simmons and fiance John Hepburn opened their new Route 27 Edgecomb business Midcoast Childcare June 6. The center continues a tradition of childcare started as Ocean Point Childcare in the couple’s East Boothbay home in 2018.
Licensed for 12 children in their home, Simmons said she could only reasonably keep six at a time with just herself. She said with the region’s desperate need for childcare and her family’s desire to get the house back to themselves, they started looking for a new space last year.
“I hadn't been in here since I was a little kid,” Simmons said. “When we met the realtor here, we walked in and I looked at John and then looked at the realtor and said, 'This is it. This is the one. Let's do it.'”
The couple met five years ago when they were each at a crossroads in life. Hepburn was back from a year away at a boat building program and a trip out west and he was seriously considering moving cross-country. Simmons graduated from University of Maine in Orono in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in child development and family relations and had been working at the Boothbay Region YMCA daycare.
“I wanted to start a family and Chelsea did, too. She has a daughter who is 6 and a half now. And that was it, I wanted to stay here with them. It's a good spot, good for a family to grow up in,” said Hepburn.
So, Hepburn started at Blake’s Boatyard and, after much discussion, Simmons opened Ocean Point Childcare. “I said we can do this, so we did it in the house and it went amazing. Then I said we could do it again. Go bigger.”
Hepburn said it took much work to get the center to what it is now. The building needed an overhaul after sitting a long time. The walls had to come out, the ceiling had to come down and all the heating and plumbing had to be replaced. Most of the work had to be done after the work day and on weekends and it took about four months to get everything done to pass the fire marshal’s and Department of Health and Human Services’ inspections and to open.
“Every minute was spent here just getting it ready,” Hepburn said. “I never had any of the building experience and whatnot, but we went through everything in this building and it was an adventure. It was fun. A lot of time, but it was fun.”
During the renovation, the couple discovered the upstairs space would be big enough to stand alone from the center. “So, that expanded our plans,” said Simmons. “We're going to put an apartment up there, two bedrooms, which we already started working on as we did the plumbing for this. We wanted to help out even more people around here (who can’t) find a place to live.”
Simmons said though the prospect of having their house back to themselves played into the decision – especially after making an addition to their family – the big tipping point was the growing waiting list for parents in need of childcare. She said every waiting list in the region is massive and childcare providers are constantly getting calls and emails, with few repeats, and regularly from families outside the region.
Though the expansion barely made a dent in her waiting list, and the list continues to grow, Simmons’ new daycare license lets her have up to 40 kids. Since she and her three employees are still easing into the new space, they have only taken on 14, but attendance will go up; Simmons said plans include bringing on another employee for the toddler room to double those numbers and to take after-school kids starting next school year.
“We have the best families. All those kids are now up here and they were so excited to move. They knew it was happening. I'd show them pictures and they'd say, 'When are we going to the new daycare?' Once we finally did, they were like, 'We love it here, Chelsea’ … We had a close little family there. Now, it's a big family here.”