SCARBOROUGH — Residents who long for a tropical boost during another long Maine winter won’t have to go far.
In a new business venture between the owner of Federal Spice, a popular restaurant in Portland, and the owner of a Route 1 building, the flavors and ambiance of the Caribbean may arrive in Scarborough as early as next month.
Jamaican-born Eric Martin and his new business partner, Scarborough resident Mark Maroon, plan to open a second Federal Spice restaurant in the Allied Mortgage building at 360 Route 1, south of Oak Hill. The space previously housed the now-defunct Freaky Bean coffee shop.
Martin, who bought Federal Spice nearly two years ago, has lived in Portland for 17 years, but still retains his mellow accent and easy-going attitude. He said his restaurant will fill a niche for those who live or work in the Scarborough area to eat “something different (than) McDonald’s.”
Filled with a blend of exotic aromas, his small space at 225 Federal St. in Portland has a varied clientele – “a lot of regulars that come in, from judges, to police, to lawyers, to postmen, to skateboarders, to janitors, to fishermen,” Martin said. “The school kids can come here and get their lunch for under $5 sometimes.”
The prices are low – from $1.95 to $6.95 – but the fare includes a variety of wraps, from curried coconut chicken to Cajun salmon, as well as Jamaican dishes like curried goat, oxtail, jerk chicken and sweet potato fries that online reviews and cooking celebrity Rachael Ray consider to be first-rate.
Martin said he has been cooking most of his life and has taught all three of his children how to cook.
“As a Jamaican kid, you have to learn to cook,” he said. “My son is more skeptical; I haven’t lost hope with him for cooking yet.”
Martin and Maroon plan to offer most of the Portland restaurant’s menu in Scarborough, while adding Seattle’s Best and Wicked Joe’s coffees and other popular drinks. Hours of service will be expanded to include breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also plan a colorful decor, with art on the walls from local artists. Island music and, eventually, some live music, will complete the island feel, Maroon said.
“Truly, when people walk in, their senses will be stimulated,” he said. “This will be a neat place to sit, belong to, and be part of the neighborhood.”
In the spirit of giving back to the community, Maroon said they will offer non-profit organizations cards to distribute to supporters. Any time people use the card, a percentage of gross sales will be donated to that non-profit.
With a target opening date of Nov. 1, Maroon and Martin must work quickly. Though Maroon said he doesn’t anticipate any problems getting the necessary permitting from the town, the space must be fitted with some new equipment that may include an environmentally friendly, hoodless fryer. Because of restrictions in the space, some of the foods will be cooked in Portland and transported to the Scarborough restaurant.
But Maroon said he is confident that all the details will be worked out. Meanwhile, he’s picturing the restaurant as a gathering place for the community.
“Scarborough is still a community, even though it’s grown,” he said. “We’re going to bump into people we know (at the restaurant); feel comfortable there. We want to bring fun back to food.”
As for Martin, he said he’s grateful for the support of his customers and others who are encouraging him in this new step.
“I’m loving it; I’m blessed,” he said with a smile.
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.