MILLINOCKET, Maine — “American Loggers” just started its second season and its stars know exactly where you can watch it.
Starting early next month, Pelletier Loggers Family Restaurant Bar and Grill will be serving American fare at the luxuriantly remodeled former Downtown Restaurant at 53 Penobscot Ave. Family patriarch Eldon Pelletier estimated that the family spent close to $1 million on the two-floor, 5,600-square-foot remodeling project, which includes a laundromat next door.
“We’re about 95 percent completed on the renovations,” Pelletier said Saturday as about a half-dozen friends sat around the downstairs bar. “We are actually ready to open, as far as having our permits and licenses goes.”
“We actually need our cash registers,” his brother Rudy Pelletier said.
“It’s easy to get people in here when we have no cash registers,” Eldon Pelletier said.
“We hope we will get the same crowd when the registers arrive,” Rudy Pelletier responded, smiling.
The family bought the building at an auction for an undisclosed price on May 21, 2009. The Downtown Restaurant had closed the previous November.
The renovations of the new eatery were extensive. The first-floor exterior has a log cabin finish, several windows and a large side porch with overhang. Atop that is the front end of an 18-wheel logging truck that connects to a second-floor atrium with large windows.
Inside, the blond wood floorboards are freshly laid, as are the carpets. The wood-finished walls and log chairs and tables fit right in with the area and the TV show. The restaurant has two large, spacious bars, a large rock fireplace, an upstairs dance area, two jukeboxes and will have two pool tables.
Big-screen TV sets fill several nooks and corners, an elevator runs between floors and show paraphernalia hangs on the walls. The restaurant also will sell “American Loggers” items, such as T-shirts, and it has a Web site, pelletierloggersfamilyrestaurant.com, under construction.
Several Gerald Pelletier Inc. workers and a three-man crew from RDH Contractors Inc. began an extensive remodel of the building in June 2009.
Since “American Loggers” debuted on the Discovery Channel 12 months ago, the reality TV program has used flashbacks and re-enactments to portray the personal and professional difficulties endured by the Pelletiers — a family of seven brothers and a host of grandchildren — as they struggle to keep their logging business going.
The second season debuted Friday. It will move away from the dangers inherent in logging to concentrate more on the family dynamics and the challenge of maintaining sustainable forestry within Maine, Eldon Pelletier said. A crew videotaped the show from June to January.
“Now that it’s being produced, we feel good about it, but it was a lot of work to get it where it is,” he said.
“You get used to having the cameras around,” Rudy Pelletier said.
Like the TV show, the restaurant will help make Millinocket a nationwide draw, said Brian Wiley, former Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce president and a longtime Pelletier family friend.
The show already has helped make Millinocket and the Golden Road, upon which the Pelletiers ply their trade, recognizable, Wiley said. The success of the Maine State Harley Owners’ Group rally in July 2009, which drew at least 1,000 people to the area, is partially attributable to the Pelletiers.
“When that was going on, you had all these people who wanted to go to the Pelletiers’ garage to get their picture taken,” Wiley said. “When you have people from Georgia coming up to be in Millinocket, my God, that says an awful lot, doesn’t it?”
“And they [the show’s producers] are already starting to whisper about season No. 3,” Eldon Pelletier said.