Amato’s opening on Main Street

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

An Amato’s sandwich shop is coming to Bridgton, albeit a scaled-down version.

The shop will be located inside the former Red Shield Heating Oil Office of C. N. Brown Company’s Big Apple Store at 93 Main Street, across from The Chalmers Agency Insurance building.

“We think this has all the ingredients to be a successful enterprise,” said C. N. Brown Co. General Manager Chuck Wilkins. “It’s not the full-blown menu, but we’ll have all the traditional sandwiches, pizza and calzones, and their sauces and oil.”

Pasta dishes, such as spaghetti and rigatoni, will not be served, but front and center will be the signature sandwich that the Portland-based business is credited with inventing 105 years ago — the “Real Italian” sandwich. The first Amato’s Sandwich Shop was opened on India Street in Portland by Giovanni Amato, who started out selling the sandwiches to Italian immigrant workers on the docks in 1902, the company’s website states. It wasn’t until Dominic Reali took over the business in 1972 that the business really took off, leading to today’s 12 company stores, a bakery and a growing franchise operation.

The project, which did not require planning board review but was reviewed by town department heads, will involve removing a wall between the vacant heating oil office and The Big Apple Store, adding a front counter, and installing all kitchen equipment. Work will be confined to the interior of the store.

“We think it’s great for the area,” Wilkins said, adding that the Main Street, Bridgton Big Apple has a “tremendous reputation” among the company’s close to 80 Big Apple convenience stores in New England.

C. N. Brown will own the Amato’s franchise operation in Bridgton, as the third such combination of a Big Apple and Amato’s. The company opened an Amato’s at a Big Apple in Lancaster, N.H. in January, and another in Portsmouth, N.H. two months ago, said Wilkins.

The company has other franchise operations inside Big Apple stores, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway. The Big Apple store on Route 302 in Naples has a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise as part of their operation, said Wilkins. But since Bridgton already has a Dunkin’ Donuts as well as a Subway sandwich shop, Amato’s was the best choice for the Bridgton store, he said.

“We try to get the right combination,” he said. “The (sandwich shop/convenience store) formula seems to work, and we’re proud of it.”

Perhaps ironically, Amato’s was mentioned as an example of a desirable franchise business by anti-McDonald’s leader Scott Finlayson, during the huge public hearing held prior to the failed March referendum on banning fast-food restaurants and big box stores. Now Finlayson, who lives on nearby Church Street, will have an Amato’s right around the corner.

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