SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 24, 2012

Ma Duke's closes after town shuts off electricity

Eatery known for giving free Thanksgiving dinners to needy

BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — DANVERS — A Danvers Electric crew shut off power Monday to the Maple Street mainstay of Ma Duke’s Pizza, Seafood and More, after the owner fell behind on her bill.

The small restaurant at 139 Maple St., which is tucked behind Lyons Ambulance just off Danvers Square, is known around town for its generosity to the needy. Every Thanksgiving for the past six years, owner Debby Marticio and her crew have served free meals for homeless families and others in need.

Last year, the restaurant prepared and served about 1,000 free Thanksgiving dinners.

“Sorry we had to close,” read a sign posted on the door Monday. “Electricity was shut off today.”

Marticio said she begged the utility workers not to cut the power, especially before Thanksgiving. She said the crew was kind enough but told her they had to do their job.

Business this year was the worst she’s seen in the nearly seven years that she has owned the restaurant, she said, leading her to fall behind on her electric bill. She owes a total of about $6,300.

She had been working with Danvers Electric on a payment plan, she said, and had offered to make “a substantial deposit,” but was told she had to settle the debt to keep the lights on.

“If I could pay you in full, I wouldn’t be in this position,” Marticio said she told officials. “I’m scared to death about Thanksgiving.”

She was hoping to stay open at least through the Thanksgiving holiday, she said. Now, she and her two employees face an uncertain future. Since Marticio cannot open, she cannot earn money to pay the bill and fears she may lose the restaurant.

“She’s behind, and I know she has been working with the Electric Division to resolve the problem,” said Leonard Marshall, the public works business manager and town accountant. “But it wasn’t adequately resolved.”

Following state Department of Public Utilities regulations, Danvers Electric can pursue collections 45 days after a bill is due for residential customers. Commercial establishments do not fall under the same guidelines, he said.

“We follow pretty much the same rules” for both residential and commercial customers, said Marshall, who declined to discuss specifics of the restaurant’s bill.

“Shutting the electricity off is the process of last resort,” Marshall said. “We try to work with the customer as best we can.”

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.