FREEPORT — To have a true European dining experience you usually have to be in Europe.
Next year, it’ll mean you only have to be in Freeport.
Stirling and Mull, a European-themed gastropub, is expected to have a “soft” opening in March and a grand opening on the Fourth of July. Husband and wife Ed and Shana McLean, who have been living overseas for several years, are bringing their European experience to Freeport, although they said they are not ready to disclose the location until their plans are finalized.
“As we traveled, we naturally got to dine in some amazing locales and taste equally amazing foods and beverages,” Ed McLean, a Falmouth native, said in an email. “These foods, beverages, and experiences are what we would like to share with those at home.”
The establishment, which will seat 120 in the dining area and 30 in the bar area, will feature a beer wall and a wine wall, where customers can pour their own drinks. The system tracks by ounces instead of by the glass, so customers can try as much or as little of a drink as they want.
“We are having a beer wall because we plan on having a large number of craft beers, and it enables customers to try a lot of them and find a favorite quickly and easily,” McLean said.
The food will mostly be from Spain, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. McLean said one thing he enjoys about European food is that dishes are prepared using fresh, natural ingredients.
“To bring this aspect of Europe to our location in Maine, we will provide the freshest and best tasting food to our customers by getting the vast majority of our ingredients from local farms and our baked goods from local bakers,” McLean said.
McLean said Freeport needs a European-style restaurant.
“We are bringing food types that are currently lacking in the Freeport area,” he said. “And, while it is a restaurant, our desire is to share experiences to the greatest extent possible so we will have a European feel that no other restaurant in Freeport currently has.”
Stirling and Mull will have live music and a dance floor, which McLean said is another thing missing in Freeport. The restaurant will also offer classes on wine, beer, and scotch, and will host guided tastings. There will also be discussions on European travel.
“Most (diners) seem to still gravitate to the Old Port or Portland in general, but Freeport has some great places to dine – it is not just a shopping mecca,” McLean said. “This bias is something that I hope to change. I would love to see Freeport become known for great food and drink.”
McLean is retired from the Department of Defense, where his wife, a Pennsylvania native, still works. He said this has given them “experience with analysis and innovation has allowed us to thoroughly examine market conditions and incorporate technologies to make staff more efficient.”
In addition to the beer wall, smartphone users will be able to interact with servers, order, and pay from their phones, and customers paying with credit cards will be able to pay at their tables via mobile pay options.
McLean said he and his wife, who have been married for five years, have “limited experience” in the restaurant industry, but have been working on this idea for nine years. They originally wanted to open a coffee shop with live entertainment, but after traveling together, their concept expanded.
“We began to morph our original idea of a coffee shop with entertainment to a Europub – a gastropub with a heavy emphasis on European styles, foods, and beverages,” McLean said.
The McLeans are fundraising for the restaurant with a page on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website, and have until Jan. 2, 2015, to meet their goal. They want to raise at least $1,000 to pay for some of the furniture they’ll need. The campaign gives back to those who donate by giving the donors a gift card to the restaurant, equal to their donation, plus 10-30 percent interest, depending on how much was donated.
“One of the great things about raising any funds this way is that it not only assists a small business in generating needed capital investments, but it is also pretty low risk for those contributing,” McLean said. “Raising money this way demonstrates to the banks that what is being proposed is wanted by a community and that a support network is already in place.”
Keith McBride, the executive director of Freeport Economic Development Corp., said the restaurant will “provide some life” in the area of town where the McLeans are planning to open.
“It provides a different kind of dining experience, not only for tourists, but for locals,” he said. “This will give folks visiting town something a little different to try.”
McBride said the McLeans’ plans are unique and he said he believes their concept will be successful.
“They have an interesting approach to business,” he said, “which I think will work very well.”