BRUNSWICK — Once famous for the stench of industrial waste wafting off the Androscoggin River, the town is becoming known for a different kind of aroma.
People walking down Maine Street on a Saturday night are bound to smell a lot of different things: the scent of simmering curry drifting out of Shere Punjab, or brewing coffee at Little Dog, or lamb gyros frying at Enoteca Athena.
Debora King, executive director of the Brunswick Downtown Association, calls Brunswick a “foodie hub.”
There are 36 eating establishments in town, she said Tuesday, and business is booming. Two openings slated for next month in one downtown building are a testament to the designation.
The latest branch of Portland Pie Co. and a new restaurant called Wiennie Burger are set to open at 90 and 92 Maine St., respectively.
Joe O’Neil, chief operating officer of Portland Pie, a Portland-based pizza restaurant with four locations in Maine and three in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, said Monday that his company had been eyeing Brunswick for a while.
“Maine Street is incredible,” he said. “Brunswick certainly offers one of the most vibrant main streets in all of Maine.”
After longtime Maine Street business Agren Appliance moved to Topsham, the owners of Portland Pie Co. saw their opportunity.
Bill Moore, who owns the historic Lincoln Building, had started renovating the exterior with the help of a $48,000 grant from the BDA, and the structure caught O’Neil’s eye.
“A big part of our mission,” he said,” is to reinvest into buildings and into Main streets.”
The company began renovating the building’s interior this fall, O’Neil said, and is 30 days away from project completion. He said he hopes to open in mid-to-late January.
“We hope to fill what we see as a void” in Brunswick’s pizza options, O’Neil said. The 110-seat restaurant will be divided into a “family-oriented” dining room and a pub and bar area, and will offer delivery and takeout.
“We offer a pretty comprehensive experience for customers,” he said.
He also added that his company is trying to fill 50-60 new jobs, including servers, bartenders, cooks and dishwashers.
New York native Mike Journet also saw an opportunity in the vacant storefront on Maine Street.
Journet moved to Maine five years ago to work as an electrician. But in the past year he’d been toying with the idea of going into the restaurant business on his own to make the Brooklyn-style food of his childhood.
Although he was living in Augusta, Journet decided that he wanted to move to Brunswick to open his restaurant. Because Brunswick is both a college town and a restaurant hub, he felt the town would be a good market for his new venture.
“I’m selling wienies and I’m selling burgers, and I couldn’t come up with a catchy name,” Journet said. So eventually, he said, he decided: “I’ll just call it Wiennie Burger.”
Journet says everything will be served in classic, New York style, with fresh, never-frozen beef burgers and hot dogs with toppings like sauerkraut, chili and pickles.
“I’m really optimistic about everything,” he said. “I’m working with a lot of people in town, and have a lot of support. Everyone’s making things really easy for me.”
This week he’s set for final health and code inspections, he said, and if all goes well, he hopes to open the week of Jan. 4.
Moore, the owner of the building, said he didn’t know what kind of businesses would replace Agren.
But, he added, he wasn’t surprised that they turned out to be restaurants.
Portland Pie Co. and Wiennie Burger plan January openings in the newly renovated Lincoln Building at 92 and 90 Maine St., respectively, in Brunswick.