SOUTH PORTLAND — The construction vehicles are gone, the staff has been hired, food suppliers are making deliveries and more than a cord of wood sits piled next to the single-story brown building, whose sign glows alongside of Interstate 95.
It can only mean one thing.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Maine Mall Road is about to open.
Spokeswoman Julie Davis said the Southern-themed restaurant will have a soft opening on Monday, Nov. 1. The doors will open at 6 a.m.
Davis said the opening will take place with little fanfare, so the 150 or so employees can work out the kinks of the operation.
“We try to keep it as quiet as possible so we can make sure we have everything under control,” she said.
That may be difficult, however. Local mouths have been watering for Cracker Barrel’s home-style meals since the restaurant was first proposed in Scarborough. But those mouths went dry when the company pulled plans over a sign dispute with the town.
But the restaurant then hopped over the city line to South Portland.
“I’m hearing people in the community are excited,” Davis said. “The enthusiasm we’ve been hearing is terrific.”
Davis said the restaurant will be the traditional Cracker Barrel style: a more than 200-seat diner with a stone fireplace and a 3,600-square-foot gift shop.
Of course, there will also be the trademark feature of the building: a 1,430-square-foot porch with a metal, overhanging roof. The area will be equipped with the company’s traditional rocking chairs, where people can relax and play chess.
The South Portland restaurant is the first Cracker Barrel in the state. The company operates nearly 600 restaurants in 41 states. Standard hours are Sunday through Thursday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org