BRUNSWICK — Dave Barter’s dream has always been to open a bar of his own – somewhere in the Carribean, about 2,000 miles away from Brunswick Landing.
But when the opportunity came for him to convert the old New Beet Market, which offered internships to local students and gave a portion of proceeds back to the community, Barter knew he had to seize it.
“Anytime in my life when something really good has happened, that mentoring piece has been a part of it,” Barter said. “Whether it’s been for me, or me for others, or my wife and I for others.”
As a result, Barter has been hard at work since October building Oaks and Maple Café, a restaurant and bar with a new menu, alcohol offerings and design, but the same socially conscious mission as New Beet.
The establishment, which has a motto of “good food, good conscience,” employs young people involved with the Brunswick-based mentoring program Seeds of Independence and other local nonprofits.
Oaks and Maple also provides lunch to Harpswell Coastal Academy and Pathways Early Learning Center, and 5 percent of its gross proceeds are donated to organizations that work with at-risk youth.
Barter, who is the owner and executive chef of Oaks and Maple, said he met with New Beet co-founder Jamie Pacheco last fall to discuss his proposal to take over the initiative. Barter also knows Erika Weidner, executive director of Seeds of Independence.
“Jamie had decided she wanted to go do something different, and they wanted to have a little different take on things here, and I wanted to open up a bar,” Barter said. “But the attractor was the whole connection with Seeds of Independence, and everything that Seeds does for at-risk (students) in the state.”
Since the shift from New Beet to Oaks and Maple, Barter said he has kept the restaurant mostly open during renovations, barring a two-week closure following Christmas. During that time, he said crews completed most of the heavy construction work and painting and re-opened Jan. 8.
A few customers haven’t been happy with the noise while dining, he added, but remaining open during the transition has been better than laying off his staff and disrupting lunch service to the schools for months.
On March 23, Oaks and Maple launched an invitation-only dinner for friends and family. Barter said he hoped to begin full dinner and bar service for the public March 29.
As for menu changes, he said a few resulted just from tweaking the recipe on some classic options.
“We took the grilled cheese that was ‘OK’ and we’ve now made it five cheeses; it’s called the Grilled Cheese-a-Palooza,” he said. “We changed the chicken salad so that it is a little more like a traditional chicken salad versus being this very sweet, liquidy thing that it was.”
Barter said Oaks and Maple has also introduced some hot dishes to the lunch menu, including a Philly cheesesteak on naan featuring a special aioli instead of classic mayonnaise.
Certain popular sandwiches and salads have survived the transition too.
Another aspect of New Beet that Barter said he is committed to retaining is serving as much locally sourced food and drink as possible.
Some local beers to be served at Oaks and Maple, for instance, include Maine Beer Company’s India pale ale “Lunch,” as well as their American stout “Mean Old Tom,” and offerings from Lone Pine Brewing Company in Portland.
Barter also said Westbrook-based Native Maine Produce is one of the restaurant’s big suppliers. He added, however, buying local isn’t always easy in Maine.
“Here in the state of Maine that’s a seasonal thing; you can’t always get everything as local as you’d like it,” he said.
One of the biggest differences Oaks and Maple has from New Beet, however, is the newly added bar.
Barter said he is especially excited about his Dark and Stormy recipe, which is a departure from the typical formula, due to using Papa’s Pilar dark rum instead of Gosling’s.
Above all else with his new venture, however, Barter said he is “trying to stay true” to the people who gave him his first jobs.
While growing up in Woolwich, Barter said he had great parents, but struggled in school and had what he calls “a series of unfortunate events” in his early life, one of which was being picked up for OUI in the ninth grade.
Without the help of several mentors – such as his Morse High School wrestling coach Jim Coffin, whom he credits as a main reason he graduated high school – Barter said he would not have had the career success he has today.
Through his own experience, Barter said he’s learned it’s important for kids to know there’s a place they can go for support, whether it be home, a mentoring program like Seeds, or school.
“I never thought, ‘let’s have a restaurant with mentoring,’ I didn’t know there was such a thing, and here we are,” he said. “It’s kind of full circle if you think about it.”
Dave Barter, owner and executive chef of Oaks and Maple Cafe at Brunswick Landing, has spent the last five months converting the former New Beet Market into a revamped restaurant and bar.
Oaks and Maple mainly stayed open throughout the entire renovation period, which included the installation of a bar, removal of a freezer from the kitchen and painting the walls.