BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS — Town Manager Wayne Marquis said it is unfortunate that Danvers Electric had to shut off the power to Ma Duke’s, given owner Debby Marticio’s generosity in preparing hundreds of free Thanksgiving meals for the past several years.
However, the modest eatery at 139 Maple St. was six months behind in its bills before the municipal electric company shut off power Monday.
“It’s unfortunate,” Marquis said. “We certainly appreciate the good work she’s done for which many people are grateful, we’re grateful.”
Ma Duke’s electric bills averaged $1,070 a month, Marquis said. Marticio said Tuesday that she owes a total of $6,300.
Yesterday, she said that she is hoping to reopen, maybe at the end of the week, thanks to people who have stepped up to offer to pay her bill.
“I’m going to get there,” she said, saying one woman offered to contact 60 of her friends to donate $100 apiece. “I have so many people calling to send checks.”
Marquis said he appreciates Ma Duke’s Pizza, Seafood and More’s good work, including the preparation last year of approximately 1,000 free Thanksgiving dinners. Those meals in the past have fed homeless families, housebound residents, young people struggling with substance abuse at a Danvers treatment center and those living at the Inn Transition transitional housing in Peabody. Marticio has been making these free meals for the past six years. The town coordinates efforts to feed the needy during the holidays among various agencies and restaurants like Ma Duke’s and Supino’s that in the past have stepped up to help.
It costs between $10,000 and $11,000 to serve the free Thanksgiving meal at Ma Duke’s, Marticio said, with much of that coming from donations.
Marticio said she has no hard feelings toward the town.
“Oh God, no, not at all,” she said. “I understand their point of view.”
Marticio intends to pay the bill off so she can reopen and make a living. She made a payment of $70 Friday and another $100 payment Monday, all she had on her for cash, she said, but it was not enough to keep the lights on.
She has also taken steps to trim her electric bill in recent months. Because her location is made up of two former eateries, she receives two bills. Unplugging a freezer and one of her Pepsi display cases and shutting off the pizza oven when it’s not in use helped drop the bill $200 to $300 a month. She has also been able to cut the bill for the dining room from $1,200 to $650.
“This has been the hardest year ever, not just for me, but for everybody,” Marticio said.
Shutting the electricity off has been costly, not only in lost business but in the $500 worth of food and supplies that spoiled. She will have to pay $1,000 to restock. She is also behind in her rent, but the landlord has been understanding, she said.
The closing of Ma Duke’s caught by surprise the coordinator for the Thursday night Danvers High football team dinners, which are normally held for 85 to 100 people. Ma Duke’s had been supplying chicken Parmesan and ziti at least for the past year, and parent Suzanne Morrison said the players like the food and “the price is right.”
When Morrison learned of Ma Duke’s closing Monday, she scrambled to make arrangements this week with another eatery in town.
“It’s very sad,” selectmen Chairman Bill Clark said about the closing of Ma Duke’s. “It’s very difficult when businesses in town don’t go well.”
He said he feels bad for Marticio, whom he described as “a sweetheart” and “a nice person.”
When Marticio was asked why she wants to do so much for those who have so little, she said it’s something she has wanted to do since she was young.
Those who wish can contact Marticio at 978-774-0172.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.