Yarmouth pub hopes to slake thirst for community

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YARMOUTH — The storefront at 365 Main St. has seen a lot of turnover in recent years.

The location, which housed You Wanna Pizza Me from 2013-2015, most recently served as storage for the neighboring Handy’s Market and Cafe.

Starting next week, it will be Yarmouth’s newest pub.

“I hope that people are excited for another food-and-drink option and to have a new business join Yarmouth,” owner Caitlin Henningsen said.

Owl and Elm, which is expected to open by Sept. 21, is being developed by Sean Ireland, who also developed Handy’s. Ireland said he is leasing the building from Scott Dugas and was looking for a sublessee with something exciting to add to the village area.  

“We always wanted to do something that would complement Handy’s and add to the downtown revitalization,” Ireland said.

Revitalizing Yarmouth’s village has been important to Ireland since he bought the old Andy’s Handy Store and transformed it in mid-2015 into a market and community hub. The store includes OTTO pizza and Holy Donut shops, as well as a grocery section and a carriage house with seating and a meeting room.

“We have a real interest in working with the town and making the village pop,” Ireland said. “We feel strongly about investing in the village and in Main Street.”

Denise Clavette, Yarmouth’s economic development director, said the town’s 2016 marketing analysis showed that residents are interested in more dining options that are easy to walk to. She said Owl and Elm should be a great fit on Main Street.

“It’s nice to see business owners interested in taking properties and reinvesting in the down town of Yarmouth,” she said.

Clavette said a lot of factors go into revitalizing a downtown, including pedestrian access, building character, and streetscape. She said there are many ways Main Street can be made more cohesive, and business creation and expansion is one of them.

The key to creating businesses that will resonate with Yarmouth residents, Ireland said, is to keep everything local. Having the pub owner, building developer, and building owner all based in Yarmouth is “important for the success of the pub.”

“We took our time trying to find an owner/operator that lived in town and would be the face of the pub,” he said.

Henningsen said she moved to Yarmouth last December after looking to settle in Maine with her family for several years. With almost 20 years of experience in the food service industry as a server, bartender, restaurant manager, and food truck operator, she said she was ready to open her own establishment.

She said the name Owl and Elm was inspired by Herbie, Yarmouth’s iconic 217-year-old elm tree that stood on the corner of Yankee Drive and East Elm Street until 2010. Also, the pub is near the intersection of Main and East Elm streets. 

Originally, the plan was to name the pub the Wise Elm, but Henningson decided to add the word “owl” because of a costume her daughter owns. Since owls are known to be wise, she said, the name worked.

“This has been designed from our hearts and what we know about Yarmouth,” Henningsen said. “We share Sean’s vision as a developer for a small, family-friendly pub.”

Henningsen didn’t know the space at 365 Main St. was available until she had a chance meeting with Ireland at Handy’s earlier this year. The two began talking and soon discovered they were what the other had been looking for.

The space, which was also previously home to a laundromat, a Mister Bagel, a barbecue restaurant, and the Deer Run Tavern, is 950 square feet with seating for 34, and an additional eight to 10 seats outside.

There is bar seating, too, but Ireland said the establishment is not a “bar.”

“There are things that distinguish a bar from a pub,” he said, “and that’s that a pub is very community centered.”

Food will be the main focus at Owl and Elm. Henningsen described the menu as “classic comfort foods with a New England base and a variety of other creative comfort food items,” with everything made from scratch.

Henningsen said she has hired two chefs and plans to hire six to eight additional employees. The pub will be open seven nights a week from 4-10 p.m., and brunch will be served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The hope, Henningsen said, is to make Owl and Elm “another community table.” 

“It’s cozy and comfortable and welcoming,” she said. “You’ll come in and settle down as if you’re hanging out at home.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Caitlin Henningsen, left, is the owner of Owl and Elm, a new Main Street pub in Yarmouth. Her business partner is Sean Ireland, who also developed Handy’s Market and Cafe.

Owl and Elm, a pub located at 365 Main St. in Yarmouth, will be opening next week.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.