Portland's East Bayside on a roll: Bagel shop, others see growing appeal
PORTLAND — Sandwiched between the heights of Munjoy Hill and potentially lofty towers of the proposed Midtown development in Bayside, the East Bayside neighborhood is seeing a small but steady influx of new residents and businesses.
One of the newest is Union Bagel Co., which is now preparing to open its doors at 147 Cumberland Ave. early next month.
Bagel-makers Paul Farrell and Toby Alves are renovating the 500-square-foot space, formerly the site of Katie Made Bakery. Farrell launched Union Bagel last year at the Public Market House in Monument Square, but the demands of the shoestring business forced him to put it on hold last fall.
He said he's now excited to have a space of his own, in an up-and-coming Portland neighborhood.
"I love being in this corner of the city," he said. "I love the mix of people, and the character of the place. It's a real neighborhood."
Farrell compared East Bayside to a part of Brooklyn, N.Y., where he grew up.
"This reminds me of Midwood (Brooklyn)," he said. "... It's mixed economically, and there's a range of people and backgrounds. People know each other. They talk to each other on the streets."
Farrell said he and Alves plan to make organic, New York-style bagels at the new shop, continuing the baking tradition that Katie Made established there in 2000. Prior to that the building was home to Silly's restaurant, which is now a few blocks away on Washington Avenue. Katie Made, meanwhile, has moved to 181 Congress St.
The fact that a new business has come to East Bayside, while two others have stayed nearby, seems to be a natural path of development for the area, according to Jed Rathband, a Realtor and entrepeneur who lives and works there.
"We are the focus of where people want to live, work and invest," he said. "East Bayside provides an environment for people and groups that are just starting."
Rathband said residential and business development in the neighborhood is more "organic" than in other areas, such as in Bayside, where public attention is focused on the large Midtown project.
While he said he welcomes that project's addition of housing, parking and retail space, he also said growth in East Bayside is more "attainable."
"Projects like (Midtown) are swinging for the fences," he said. "Here, people are just trying to get on base."
Someone else trying to make a "hit" in East Bayside is Pliny Reynolds, a building designer for the Whole Foods supermarket chain who moved to Maine from Texas.
Last fall, he bought a two-story building at 56 Washington Ave. that houses a retail florist and three-bedroom apartment. He's now renovating the apartment so he can move there from Kennebunk and be close to the Whole Foods store on Somerset Street.
Like Farrell, Reynolds said the neighborhood brings back fond memories of a former home. He compared East Bayside to the East Austin area of Texas – ranked last fall by Forbes magazine as the No. 7 hippest neighborhood in the nation (downtown Portland ranked 11th).
"It's a similar situation," Reynolds said. "... The (neighborhood) is close to downtown, it's up-and-coming, and it's affordable enough to attract artists and independent-spirited businesses."
"This is a place that engages people," he added. "I think there's a bright, bright future ahead."