Wiscasset’s Le Garage at 15 Water St., shuttered since Cheryl Rust closed the 40-year-old restaurant in 2017, has a new owner and a new lease on life.
Ed Colburn and Rust closed on the sale Feb. 16.
“I summered on Southport Island every year since I was born,” he said. “Over the last few years, I’d come up when I could, but when you work in the restaurant industry you don’t get many summers off.”
Although he and Rust weren’t supposed to be talking to each other during the sale process, they were in regular communication. “She was the kind of person that I found myself hugging after the first meeting,” he said.
Rust said she was very enthusiastic about Colburn taking over the restaurant. “He’s got a great talent, and I think the people of Wiscasset will really appreciate him,” she said.
Colburn’s parents rented a house to him on Southport, which is where he lives now, but for most of his life, he lived outside Boston, in Dover, Massachusetts. A graduate of Brandeis University, he wanted to try working in the restaurant industry. “I started at the bottom and worked my way up. If they asked me to do anything, I’d try it. So I advanced quickly.”
He worked for The Daily Catch, which has three locations in the Boston area. Most are south of Boston. The restaurant features Sicilian seafood and pasta. He became chef of the restaurant in Brookline when its chef left to open his own restaurant. Colburn was thrilled to take it over, because his goal was to become the chef of his own restaurant. It didn’t hurt that it was a lot closer to his home in Dover. He stayed there six and a half years.
After rising as far as he could with The Daily Catch, Colburn was ready to step out on his own. “I just love this area, and I found myself at a time in my life when I could make a change. I had no lease, so I came up to look around.”
Having spent summers here from the time he was a baby, Colburn knew some of the area resources. “I knew about Le Garage. We’d come occasionally, and everyone I knew had some ties to the place. They’d had their prom here, or an anniversary dinner. A lot of people worked here when they were teenagers.”
Le Garage wasn’t the only place he looked at. He also gave some thought to Southport General Store, but “that’s not really a restaurant, of course,” he said.
Right now, Colburn is planning renovations. “We’re going to try to keep the place as is this year, with only some aesthetic changes,” he said. “The kitchen is in very good shape, and a lot of kitchen items came with the sale, so we don’t have to purchase everything new.” He has hired the Knickerbocker Group for interior design, and is working toward hiring a general contractor. He said the floors will be redone, and some painting will be done. He expects to be working on the renovations through the winter and spring, with a possible opening in late spring or early summer. Colburn said he still has some hoops to jump through, including town permits. He’s met with the code enforcement officer and the fire marshal so far.
He said the menu would include things he’s very familiar with – seafood and pasta – but he plans to offer other selections, too. “I want to serve some nice steaks. I also want to work with some local farms.”
Colburn hopes to hire people who had worked for the restaurant before if they’re still available. “I hope to stay open year-round, or maybe only close in January to keep people working,” he said.
He said the restaurant will be fine dining, but not so fine that it would price out locals. He said the bar downstairs would serve more casual meals.
He can envision sailing up from Southport to work occasionally. He plans to rent a mooring, and he said the recreational pier was a big draw. “I really wanted a place on the water,” he said with a smile. “I definitely have that.” He said he hopes the restaurant will be a draw for boaters from the Boothbay region and elsewhere.