BELFAST — Ice cream fans in midcoast Maine mourned last October when Karen Rak closed her downtown Belfast shop, Scoops and Crepes. But three weeks ago, there was cause for a sweet celebration when new business owner Bryant Hall, 23, opened The Cool Spot in the same Main Street location. In addition to serving ice cream, Hall plans to make the business into a local “centerpiece,” he said. There are board games available and live music and other events coming up. “It’s a place to have a good time,” he said.
So far, community members seem to agree.
“So many people have come in and said they were glad to have an ice cream shop back in Belfast,” Hall said. “That’s good to hear.”
The recent University of Vermont graduate in entrepreneurship and Northport native said he always has wanted to have his own business. And when Hall saw that Scoops was closing, he felt that there was a niche to fill as well as a space to rent.
So beginning at the end of December, he moved in, painting the walls a warm orange and scouring area auctions and going-out-of-business sales to find furnishings and equipment.
In the middle of March, Hall still was tracking down furniture on Craigslist. “You’ve got to know how to bargain-hunt,” he said of outfitting The Cool Spot. “Fortunately, it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be.”
His age and lack of experience have posed some problems for the 2006 Belfast Area High School graduate, but nothing insurmountable, he said. “Getting banks and whatnot to take you seriously — it’s hard to go into banks with no credit and no history and get a loan,” Hall said.
And then there was the matter of selecting the perfect product. At a local function last fall, he tasted the ice cream from Stone Fox Farm Creamery in Monroe and decided that the rich flavors would be a good fit for the new business.
“This is awesome, and it’s local,” he said.
The ice cream has been a hit with his clientele, with salt caramel the best-selling flavor by far. Other offerings include Keurig coffee, homemade waffle cones, and a plethora of toppings for the specials and sundaes. Down the road, Hall hopes to add sandwiches to the menu. To date, business has been good, he said.
“Every day, for the most part, is a little better than the day before,” he said. “People have been so supportive. It’s really heartening to see.”
Hall said the people of the area, especially his family, were a major reason that he returned after college. His mom, Deborah Hall, owns the downtown gift shop Out on a Whimsey, and his uncle, Wayne Hamilton, owns Hamilton Marine in Searsport.
“I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs,” Hall said. “I knew that if I wanted to start my own business right away, I would need to come back. This would be my best chance.”
It’s also a good time to go into business in Belfast, he believes. The end of the winter has seen a new crop of businesses opening in some of the area’s vacant storefronts, and he’s glad to be among them.
“I think Belfast is really an up-and-coming sort of community,” Hall said. “The midcoast is coming into its own. It’s Belfast’s time to shine.”
The Cool Spot, located at 35 Main St. in Belfast and open Tuesday through Sunday, will have a grand opening celebration Thursday, April 7, featuring giveaways and live music in the evening.