Main Street on the move: Plans ok’d for 4 businesses


CAFÉ CONCEPT — This sketch envisions a new look for The Cool Moose building, if Beth’s Kitchen Café is given the go-ahead to relocate there and purchase the building. The plans call for a new entrance from the shared parking lot at left, with outdoor seating at the corner where The Cool Moose mural is located.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Mid-winter might be dreary elsewhere in the Lake Region, but in downtown Bridgton, it just got busy. Plans have been okay’d by the town for the expansion and relocation of existing businesses Beth’s Café and Stone Surface Granite & Marble — and also for the startup of two new business ventures: a Class A restaurant with gas pumps called Standard Gastropub, and a bakery beside Craftworks called “Cupcake Love,” baking up to 600 cupcakes a day.

“It’s terrific that a building that’s been empty for so long will now be filled,” said Planning Board member Dee Miller, following the board’s vote Tuesday in favor of plans by restaurant partners William Henry Holmes and Alvah Franklin Johnson to renovate the vacant Bridgton Gas & Convenience store. Miller echoed those sentiments when the board noted Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Baker’s department-level approval for Greg Smith to expand his custom stone and granite top business into the former Chapter 11 property at 247 Main Street.

“Main Street is on the move,” agreed Planning Board Chairman Steve Collins.

With final findings of fact expected in a month, here’s the rundown following Tuesday’s unanimous preliminary approvals by the Bridgton Planning Board:

Beth’s Café

EXCITED TO BEGIN — Beth Doonan, owner of Beth’s Kitchen Café, was all smiles Tuesday about her plans to buy The Cool Moose building at 108 Main Street and relocate her business there, with outdoor seating in the parking lot.

After five years of successfully growing her business at 82 Main Street, which necessitated expanding into another dining room, Beth Doonan of Denmark feels like “it is time to seize the opportunity” to buy her own building instead of leasing space. It’s not that she wants more dining space right now, but that owning The Cool Moose building at 108 Main Street will allow her to create the kind of professional kitchen she’s dreamed of from the start. And with a second floor to work with down the road, there will be plenty of opportunity to grow.

The planning board’s approval will need to be followed next Tuesday with action by the Bridgton Board of Selectmen, who will consider her request for outdoor café-style seating on both the side and front of the building.

“I’m just really excited,” Doonan told the board after a brief overview of her change of use plans. “Are there any other questions?” She said she’d like to be up and running at the new location by May.

Doonan will be buying the building from Adria and Jonathan Carr, who took over The Cool Moose business and property, with its signature moose mural, from relative Peter Lowell, who began the retail store in 1968. Last year the Carrs painted the front of the building bright yellow, but Doonan said she hasn’t yet decided on a color scheme.

One thing’s for sure; the mural will have to go, because that’s where Doonan plans to create a second side entrance, along with café-style seating in the four parking spaces that she said were deeded to the Carrs when they bought the building 10 years ago. The parking lot that serves the building is under shared ownership with Chalmers Group. While Collins and the board had no concerns about the off-sidewalk seating, he said it will be up to selectmen to decide whether to allow the two tables Doonan wants to place on the sidewalk in front.

As for the future of The Cool Moose, Lowell said Tuesday, “We’d like to find a seasonal location, and continue the store,” on either a temporary or permanent basis. The mural may also be relocated, or may end up on the side of the Carr’s barn in Bridgton, he said.

Doonan said she plans to remain at about her current level of seating for 29 diners. Last November, selectmen granted Carr an increase in the sewer allocation capacity to a total of 500 gallons per day. The existing perpendicular The Cool Moose sign will be refaced, and Doonan’s trademark awning will be relocated from 82 Main Street.

The kitchen will be bigger, but there’ll be little if any change to her menu, Doonan said. “I like to keep it simple,” she said. Board member Michael Figoli advised her, because of potential costs, to check with Fire Chief Glen Garland on the details of his recommendation that a two-hour fire separation barrier be created between floors. She said she realizes she’ll need to come back to the board if and when she has concrete plans for the upstairs, but said she could envision yoga classes or a space for catering functions, as well as business office rental possibilities in the rear. The dining room ambiance will continue with artwork by local artists. “It creates a nice atmosphere,” she said.

Standard Gastropub

Site of the Standard Gastropub

The name may seem strange, but business partners William Henry Holmes and Alvah Franklin Johnson envision the public’s need for both gasoline and a good meal as coexisting successfully at the former Bridgton Gas & Convenience store at 233 Main Street, which has stood vacant for two years. And despite some concerns about parking, the board appeared to agree.

The business, a “first class restaurant and fuel station,” with craft beers, wine and liquor, will renovate the interior into a 22-seat restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, Holmes told the board. Self-service gas at the existing pumps will also be a seven-day-a-week offering during operating hours, anticipated as being from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Holmes said he and Johnson are under a lease agreement with the building’s owners, H.A. Mapes Inc., and would like to be open by the end of March. Collins said the board will need to see a statement of financial capacity before granting final approval next month.

Another condition for approval was in terms of parking. The men said that the property, both in front and behind, can handle 12–16 onsite parking spaces with adequate striping, and that plenty of additional parking will be

GAS & SUDS? — Business partners William Henry Holmes and Alvah Franklin Johnson want approval to renovate the former Bridgton Gas & Convenience store in downtown Bridgton into Standard Gastropub, a first class restaurant offering craft beer, wine and spirits. The gas pumps would stay, offering self-service fuel sales. Questions were raised over the current no parking rule on Gibbs Avenue, at left.

available at the town’s municipal parking lot across the street and a short distance up Gibbs Avenue. The avenue is designated a no parking zone currently beside the store because of the fire station.

The parking condition that the board set will require the business to separate the parking for gas customers, or pedestrians stopping by for take-out, from the parking for sit-down diners. Board member Figoli asked the men to consider using bollards to ensure the parking be clearly separated.

Abutter Ovide Corbeil, who lives directly behind the building, sought and received assurances from the men that lighting from the rear will not be any brighter than it was when the convenience store was open. In the front, the pump canopy’s existing lighting will remain the primary lighting source. Signage will remain at the same level, Holmes added.

As for meeting septic needs, the business will use low-flow bathroom appliances and an immersable dishwasher, thereby minimizing water needs to the building’s current allocation of 350 gallons per day. In addition to needing selectmen’s approval for a liquor license, the business has also applied for an entertainment license, but Holmes said the music will be small two-or-three person groups, with no bands, so noise levels ought not to be an issue, he said. “We don’t have the space to have a rough band in there,” Holmes said.

Cupcake Love & Stone Surface

The first floor of the building next to Craftworks at 63 Main Street has plans, approved by Baker, to allow Shannon and Jeffrey Lyon of Sweden to operate a small-volume cupcake bakery. “Small,” in their eyes is 800 cupcakes daily, depending on the season, with a walk-in front counter bakery and takeout open six days a week from around 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For the most part, they wrote in their application, Cupcake Love will be a special order business with only one table near the takeout.

Signage would incorporate the business logo onto a wooden sign, which would be “blended in tastefully and aesthetically with the surrounding business signs.” No certain plans for lighting have been set.

Greg Smith said Tuesday in a telephone interview he would prefer waiting until he is ready to open at the former Chapter 11 space before providing details about his plans. In his letter of application, he said, “Our business model will remain the same, only now we will have a lot more space to spread out.”

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