The Mambuca Love Story
Maine Couple Finds Love and Music in Local Hotel
PORTLAND, Maine—The Fireside Inn & Suites has served many roles over the years: a place to rest, a place to celebrate, a place to entertain, and a place to dine. For two former employees of the hotel, Fireside Inn & Suites is, and will always be known as, a place for love and music. In 1984, Deb Caldwell and Art Mambuca met for the first time. As circumstance would have it, the Fireside Inn & Suites (then the Holiday Inn) was the meeting place.
It was the ‘80s. Deb had just returned from maternity leave and was working at the Fireside Inn as a cocktail waitress. Art was a drummer and played at Zackery’s Lounge, the music venue at the hotel. At the time, the music scene was thriving. The Fireside Inn had music six nights a week featuring house bands, where a band would play for two or three weeks in a row, take a break, and return a few weeks later. The bands at Fireside played music of every sort: rock, disco, Top 40, etc. According to Art, “Whatever was on the radio, we played.”
As Art remembers, the first time he met Deb she yelled at him. “I was standing in the waitress station and she yelled at me for being there.”
Deb was married and had three children: Sara, Jon-Michael, and Amanda. While working at Fireside, Deb and Art developed a close friendship. Art would go over to Deb’s house in Westbrook to see her and her family. The two maintained this relationship for years.
When Art wasn’t on the road with his band, he lived in Peabody, Mass., while Deb stayed in southern Maine. Even with the distance, the two maintained their friendship. Sometimes Deb would go down to Peabody to visit Art, and Art would come up to visit even if he wasn’t playing at Fireside. They were best friends.
As life happens, Art and Deb drifted apart over the years. Deb was busy working and raising a family and Art had a life and a music career in Massachusetts. Art says, “She was married, I wasn’t. I had to go away because of my feelings and my respect for her.”
Art continued with his music career. After touring the country and the world with his music, Art went to culinary school.
In 2008, Deb’s first husband of 25 years left her. Jaded by his leaving, Deb shied away from dating for awhile. However, with her kids grown up and single again, she eventually realized that it was time to focus on herself.
All the while, Deb’s kids would ask about Art. They had always been fond of him and knew how close he and their mom were after years of working at the hotel together. Where had he been? What had he been up to? Why did he and Deb lose touch?
After a few years, Deb joined Facebook. She didn’t use it a lot but liked the aspect that she could reconnect with people whom she had lost touch with over the years. One day, Deb decided to look for Art on Facebook.
“Almost immediately,” she says, “he accepted my request.” After a few messages back and forth, the two rekindled their friendship.
Just like in the ‘80s at the Fireside Inn, music played its role and brought Deb and Art back together. Art had joined a Journey tribute band that was scheduled to play in Standish, Maine, at a venue fittingly called Memory Lane Music Hall. Deb, her daughters, and some friends got together and went to the show. This was the first time Deb and Art had seen each other in over 25 years since their time working at Fireside.
In Art’s words, “When we met up, it was wow, bang! We were right back in 1984 again.”
After the concert and reconnecting, it was clear that Art wanted to explore something more. Admittedly, Deb was hesitant to go on a date with Art. After being such good friends for so long, she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship after finally finding her best friend again.
Five months later, after Deb’s youngest daughter Amanda told her mom to give him a chance, Deb went on a date with Art. One year after that, they were married, June 11, 2011, at the same place where they met over thirty years before, the Fireside Inn & Suites. All of Deb’s children and grandchildren were in the wedding.
Laura Smith Martineau, sales manager at Fireside Inn & Suites, coordinated the wedding for Deb and Art. Laura shares, “When they decided to get married, where else but where they met years before when he was a musician in a band that played Zackery’s Lounge and she a waitress who worked there?”
Laura continues, “I will always remember Deb and Art’s wedding… When they danced their first dance as bride and groom, arms holding each other tight, with her head on his shoulder and eyes only for each other, there wasn’t a dry eye in the ballroom.”
Fireside had become like another home and family to Deb and Art. The woman who married them worked at Fireside with Deb and Art back in the ‘80s as a hostess and now works with Deb at New England Rehab; one of the ushers in the wedding and one of the guests worked with them at Fireside, too. And this year, Art and Deb had Thanksgiving at the Fireside Inn with Deb’s parents.
Today, Art is Cordon Bleu trained and a chef at the Cockeyed Gull on Peaks Island and Deb is a nurse at New England Rehab for infection prevention. Whether coworkers, friends, or husband and wife, the two continue to support each other.
“We always thought we would make a good Lifetime movie,” Deb says. “The stuff you read in books? That happened.”
Similar to the music scene when Deb and Art met, the Fireside Inn & Suites is still a thriving musical venue. They currently offer a TGIF Premier Maine Dance Band series every Friday night. With several bands in the rotation, the TGIF events are popular among local community members and hotel visitors. There is a $5.00 cover charge to attend and admittance is free for hotel guests.
Other special events happen regularly at the hotel including family reunions, retirement parties, birthday celebrations, and, as Deb and Art know, weddings.
“Reflecting on Deb and Art’s wedding and other events we have hosted at Fireside Inn & Suites,” Laura says, “I find it very cool that our hotel has been, and still is today, woven into the lives of people in our community.”
For Deb and Art Mambuca, Fireside Inn & Suites is a crucial thread in their love story: from beginning to, well, a second beginning.