New businesses deal with pandemic challenges

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 12:45pm

    For Wiscasset, 2020 looked like it would be a great year for the business community. The downtown reconstruction project was mostly finished and three new businesses – The Barnhouse Grill & Pub, Bath Ale Works and Seacoast Coffee Company – were planning openings on Route 1. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, bringing with it state-mandated closures, social distancing and other unforeseen challenges.

    “We were shooting for a summer opening for our brewery. Now we just hope it's sometime in 2020,” Pepper Powers of Phippsburg responded in an email. In January, Powers and his wife Jean got the go ahead to open Bath Ale Works, a micro-brewery and tap room.

    Owning their own brew pub is a dream come true for the Powers, who planned to renovate a rental space at the Wiscasset Marketplace. The couple liked the busy Route 1 location in the strip mall that’s home to a Subway franchise, Marketplace Café and a Dollar Tree retail store.

    Powers said the shutdown due to the pandemic put their plans in a holding pattern. “Until we and the landlord can get a firm idea on where this all is going, we can't really start the build-out. With luck, maybe within the next month we'll start,” he told Wiscasset Newspaper. “It hurts a lot, but we hope we can hang in there and bring our beers to the Midcoast. We love this area and the people, and we look forward to joining the awesome Maine Craft Beer family!”

    The Powers plan to offer pale ales, stouts, porters, rye ales, dark ales, and German-style beers. Their brew pub will have an open-floor concept where patrons can see the brewing process. There will be seating for 50 to 60 people at tables and along the tap room’s main bar.

    The brewing equipment is being custom built by Tigpro Stainless Fabrication in Portland.  “We'll have four, seven-barrel fermenters, and we should have a maximum monthly production capacity of about 50-60 barrels” of 31 gallons each, added Powers.

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    Just across the highway, a temporary sign announces the opening of The Barnhouse Grill & Pub, a new restaurant offering casual dining in what their owners promise will be a family-friendly, laid-back atmosphere.

    Owners Michael Collins, Dan Dyer and Dana Long also got their nod of approval from town officials in January. They also own Wild Burritos, a popular restaurant on Congress Street in Portland that received a four-star rating for its savory Tex-Mex cuisine. The trio first hoped to have their new restaurant up and running this spring. They bought the two-story building, formerly Simpson Seafood, alongside Shaw’s supermarket.  

    In spite of the pandemic-caused delay, Collins was upbeat and positive on the phone. He said the renovations were going well. Pictures showing the interior work are posted on The Barnhouse Grill & Pub’s Facebook page. Coming soon will be a cupola on the building’s gambrel-style roof. “The plumbing is almost finished. We’re tying into town water and sewer services next week,” he said. The renovations include remodeling the building’s upstairs and furnishing it with comfortable living room-style seating and pool tables.

    “It’s going to be a fun place with good food and drinks where people can come, relax and enjoy themselves. We’re so looking forward to the day when we’ll be open,” he said. The menu will feature traditional American and Mexican dishes along with regional dining favorites. Its full bar will offer locally brewed beers.

    Collins, Dyer and Long have been restoring a historic Clark-Wood home on High Street, the former Musical Wonder House. They previously lived in southern Maine and are delighted now to call “Maine’s Prettiest Village” their home.

    On Sunday, the new signs arrived at Seacoast Coffee Company’s new Wiscasset production facility at 564 Bath Road Cathy and Jim Peterman of Newcastle and their son Kyle of Bath have been roasting coffee professionally since 2005; they’ll celebrate their 15th year in business in July.

    Last December, they bought the building formerly occupied by Maine Coast Chimney. The Petermans have planned to move their business from Portland to Wiscasset. Cathy Peterman said the new building more than doubles their manufacturing space. The roasting equipment is up and running and the cold coffee brewing equipment will arrive shortly.

    “The building was gutted inside. There were many holes in the walls and roof from the stove shop that had to be repaired. We added all new plumbing, electrical wiring and a new heating system,” added Peterman.  Only the landscaping around the building remains.

    Peterman said much of the inside construction work was finished before the COVID-19 stay at home order was issued.  “As a food production facility, we are considered essential and our professional construction workers are also considered essential,” she said.

    “Our business is wholesale. We are a full-service coffee company delivering coffee, cold brew and allied products to customers from Kittery to Bar Harbor, and from Portsmouth to Jackson, New Hampshire.” Peterman said they also offer brewing equipment to restaurants and cafeterias (subject to certain requirements) as well as service.

    The Petermans eventually plan to offer curbside pickup. “Our plan is to proceed with the appropriate approvals needed to add an espresso/coffee bar for take-out only,” Peterman continued. For now they’re concentrating on filling mostly wholesale orders for coffee beans and different kinds of ground coffee. Information on how to order the company’s wholesale and retail products is available at