Portland old-school retailer Pierre’s expected to exchange electronics for eats

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PORTLAND — A venerable Old Port electronics store may become the newest restaurant on Exchange Street.

Joseph Palacci, owner of Pierre’s of Exchange Street, said a Jan. 21 change of use application to allow the Portland Meatball Co. to occupy 102 Exchange St. is preliminary.

“This is not a definite thing,” Palacci said.

Palacci declined to elaborate on the restaurant plans, submitted Dec. 23, 2015, to the city Planning Office on behalf of the Portland Meatball Co. by architect Matthew Provencal of Mark Mueller Architects.

The plans call for converting 2,300 square feet of space to seating for more than 30 customers, with a bar with 12 seats. The conversion is estimated to cost about $98,000, according to the application.

Portland Meatball Co. has also filed for trademark protection for its name and as a limited liability company with the Maine secretary of state’s office. The city application lists the company address as 106 Exchange St., the building next door to Pierre’s, which is also owned by Palacci.

Cumberland County Registry of Deeds records show Palacci bought 106 Exchange St. in 2006. The building is now home to Timber Steakhouse & Rotisserie.

The names of Portland Meatball Co. principals are not listed in the city application or corporate filing with the state. Timber owners Dan and Noah Talmatch did not return calls about the proposed restaurant next door.

Palacci said he has operated Pierre’s at its current Exchange Street address since 2007. That was the year he obtained the building from his father, according to the deeds registry.

Before that, Pierre’s leased space on Exchange Street. Palacci estimated he has been in business about 20 years; records at the state Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions show the business was incorporated in December 1980.

The names and logos of electronics, camera and computer companies paper the store, but Palacci said his type of business is an increasing rarity in an industry dominated by national chains and websites like Amazon.com.

“Business is changing. I had everything, we were like a Radio Shack,” Palacci said, standing in a store that is a hodgepodge of new and used cameras, computers, printers and televisions. Its two aisles are cramped, and cluttered with opened and unopened boxes. Counter space is piled with paperwork.

In the course of one recent afternoon, Palacci sold a digital camera to a woman headed to Kenya the next day, a battery charger to another customer, and helped a third install a SIM card into a cellphone. He said even if a restaurant will replace the store, he might reopen in a new Old Port location.

Though the Portland Meatball Co. lists his building as its home, Palacci said he knows little about the principals or restaurant plans.

“I wish there was more to tell you,” he said. “It might not even happen, it is something in the air.”

About a month before the change of use application was filed, Palacci also took out a $150,000 line of credit on the building housing Pierre’s, according to the Registry of Deeds. Palacci said the money has not been used yet, but would go to cover a tax lien on 106 Exchange St.

The city has placed liens on his properties twice since 2013. The first, for more than $13,000 on 106 Exchange St., was discharged Sept. 18, 2013, according to the Registry of Deeds. The second, for more than $17,600, was placed on 102 Exchange St. on June 18, 2015, and discharged Aug. 24, 2015.

Palacci said he might be interested in staying in the Old Port if the restaurant becomes a reality.

“I don’t know what else I would do; I know sales,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Pierre’s of Exchange Street in Portland could be converted into a restaurant called the Portland Meatball Co. A change of use application was filed with the city on Dec. 23, 2015.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.