BANGOR, Maine — Downtown Bangor is seeing one of its most active periods in recent memory. Three major apartment and retail projects are in the works, one at the former Freese’s Department Store building on Main Street and two on Broad Street.
(Not to mention the Bangor Daily News, which is moving into One Merchants Plaza in downtown Bangor in 2015.)
Here’s what else is happening downtown:
A Central Street shuffle is happening to allow Bagel Central to grow. Bagel Central is going to expand, according to owner Sonya Eldridge, and two neighbors — The Briar Patch, a children’s book and toy store, and Top Shelf Comics — are moving to clear the way.
Paul Cook, who owns the building that houses all three businesses, said the relocations stem from his desire to accommodate Eldridge’s expansion, fearing that she might move her business out of downtown if she couldn’t find the space she needed.
Today, Bagel Central does its short-order cooking and its baking in the same kitchen. Bakers work overnight to make bagels, breads and other goods for the next morning, but clear out before other employees arrive to make breakfast. There isn’t enough space for both crews.
“Everything is crammed into a very small space,” Eldridge said. “I’d like to not have everyone packed so tight and to be able to produce more product.”
Eldridge said construction crews will knock an opening in the wall in Bagel Central’s kitchen, connecting it with Briar Patch, and install a new bakery and meeting room. The expansion also gives Eldridge the chance to install a larger oven and dishwasher.
That will allow Bagel Central to stop using paper plates and plastic utensils — a tradition that dates back to the days when the eatery was kosher and would have needed separate sets of plates and washing stations for meat meals and dairy meals.
The restaurant stopped being kosher in 2008, but still didn’t have the space for a dishwasher and stuck with paper. Eldridge also said that she hopes to open on Saturdays as the “last phase” of this project.
With this work, The Briar Patch is moving one door over, into the Top Shelf Comics space. Top Shelf Comics, a dealer in coins, comic books and collectibles, is moving to Main Street.
Top Shelf is moving to the former site of Best Bib & Tucker Clothiers, 115 Main St., which closed earlier this month when the owners retired.
Top Shelf’s owner Jeff Robinson said Wednesday his store has been on Central Street for 14 years. He hopes to start moving after Christmas and be settled into his new space by Jan. 2. The store is expected to close briefly between Dec. 28 and Jan. 1.
Robinson said he’s excited about the new location because of its improved parking and visibility. “We know people will follow us up there, so we’re not worried about it,” he said.
Once Top Shelf completes moves to Main Street, The Briar Patch will move next door, after completing some renovations. After 18 years on Central Street, Briar Patch owner Cathy Anderson said even the short move will be a challenge.
“We’ll make it work,” Anderson said, adding that she expects to finish by the end of January.
After both those moves have been completed, Eldridge hopes to start work on her new expansion. She hopes that work will be completed in early April. The restaurant will need to shut down for “as brief a period as possible” during construction, she said.
That move is expected to start right after Christmas and could be finished by the start of the New Year, according to Jim Martin, a longtime Bagel Central employee.
Cook said that asking “wonderful, long-term paying tenants” like Robinson and Anderson to move was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.” It was especially hard to ask Robinson to leave his property altogether, he said.
Both Robinson and Anderson said they were willing to do it to ensure a fellow downtown business didn’t have to leave.
“Everybody comes out of this happy,” Cook said of the tenant shuffling. “Well, except for the inconvenience of moving.”
Metropolitan Soul is moving to Columbia Street from Hammond Street. Owner Tracy Monaghan said Wednesday that she’s taking the opportunity to rebrand and refocus her store. After the move, which should be completed in early February, Metropolitan Soul location will become the home of Good Soul.
“I need to go back to my soul, my roots, what I love,” she said.
Monaghan explained that during the eight years she has been in business on Hammond Street, more merchandise has crept onto her shelves that she doesn’t feel passionate about.
So she’s downsizing, in a sense. The Columbia Street place has a smaller front room that she’ll use to display merchandise she likes the most, and a back room that she hopes to convert into a sort of library and community space.
She said she hopes her move to Columbia Street will bring more retail there to join her and other businesses, such as COESPACE, an events venue and gallery, and Harvest Moon, a sandwich shop.
Cook, who also owns Metropolitan Soul’s current building, said he’s already reached an agreement a new tenant, whose identity he did not disclose.
Two new stores will open, including a Bar Harbor import. Sea of Cotton, a Bar Harbor women’s clothing store since 2006, is relocating to State Street in the spring.
Ruffles & Ribbons is also set to open on Main Street in January at the former location of Edge Video. The mother and daughter team of Betty and Pamela Robinson will offer classic and “shabby chic” home decor and floral arrangements.
BDN reporter Emily Burnham contributed to this report.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter @nmccrea213.