PORTLAND — One of the city’s older neighborhoods is getting some new tastes.
“This was just a perfect fit,” Ice It! Bakery co-owner Alan Fried said Monday about the shop’s new space at 502 Stevens Ave.
Farther along the block, Jeremy Rush and Adam Powers expect to open Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill at 476 Stevens Ave. by the end of this month.
“This fits our business model; we are a family restaurant that happens to have a bar,” Rush said May 11.
The restaurants are new to the neighborhood, but are second locations for both; Ice It! first opened in Yarmouth six years ago and Elsmere opened in South Portland in 2013.
The stretch of Stevens Avenue extending from Forest to Brighton avenues includes the University of New England, three public schools, the Maine Girls’ Academy, and residential neighborhoods on both sides of the street.
The walkable environment is what the owners want, whether it is for students coming in after school for baked goods or families going out for Texas-style barbecue with meats smoked behind the restaurant.
“We love to see kids running around with video games and barbecue all over themselves,” Rush said.
Fried co-owns Ice It! with his wife Sharon Kuhrt, and said they had been considering expansion for several years. He was connected to developer Denis Lachman through the Service Corps of Retired Executives.
Lachman tore down a house that had been at the address and rebuilt a mixed-use building with housing and two commercial spaces.
After considering expanding into the Old Port or with online sales, Fried said he was eager to move in to the new space, and is operating a coffee shop as opposed to just the bakery in Yarmouth.
Specialties include an Oreo-crusted cheesecake with salted caramel, a variety of scones and carrot cakes. They also custom-make cakes and cupcakes.
Fried said he enjoys having local students from all the schools stop in, and is happy to give area teens their first jobs. His children, Dylan and Kira, who are 19 and 16, are integral to the bakery business.
“It is pretty important to our identity that we are a family business,” he said.
The black smoker behind Elsmere came all the way from Texas, and the interior roadhouse feel and menu carry Texas influences, too.
“It is American food in the truest sense, one of our contributions to the world,” Powers said.
At Elsmere, the barbecue is wood-fired, the meats are unadorned, and nearly all the appetizers are vegan. There are three kinds of sauces to choose from, but all are on the tables for customers to add.
“We let the meat be the star,” Powers said.
Elsmere is moving into the former Siano’s Pizzeria, and the building was also once a movie theater, which will be incorporated into the overall theme, Rush said.
As with the Cottage Road restaurant in South Portland, Rush and Powers want to blend into the mixed neighborhood while also supporting local causes. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Elsmere works with area nonprofits for fundraisers.
While looking to be an enduring part of the neighborhood, Rush and Powers will also bring enduring fare to enjoy.
The owners began looking into expansion about two years after opening, but Rush said they were not in a hurry.
“It was important to have the business going strong in South Portland,” he said.
“There is something about fire and food,” Powers said.
Adam Powers and Jeremy Rush hope to open Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill later this monthat 476 Stevens Ave. in Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood. They said a walkable neighborhood location was a big priority for expansion of their South Portland business.
Ice It! co-owner Alan Fried said expanding to Deering Center from Yarmouth fit perfectly into the business plan for his family’s bakery.