Kevin MacLellan Sr. has made a lot of espresso in his lifetime, after more than 25 years in and out of the coffee business.
But he’s working very hard to keep up with the demand for lattes, cappuccinos and Americanos at his family’s new coffee shop, Wicked Brew Coffee Bar on Park Street in Bangor. He’s the in-house barista, and when it gets busy, he sometimes doesn’t stop making espresso for hours.
“They keep me chained to the [espresso] machine,” he said. “Not that I mind … it’s an art form. But it’s also kind of science. If you know the right ratios and exactly how to make it, it’s hard to screw it up. But it’s something I just know how to do.”
Though MacLellan Sr.’s oldest daughter, 35-year-old Kate Proctor, is the official owner, Wicked Brew is entirely a family affair. MacLellan Sr., 55, is the barista. His other daughter, Marri MacLellan, 33, pours coffee and takes orders. And Lexi MacLellan, 22, and Kevin MacLellan Jr., 20, take turns in the kitchen and behind the counter.
Together, they opened Wicked Brew last month, after nearly 20 years of daydreaming about what their perfect coffee shop might look like.
“It was time to stop talking about it and just do it,” Proctor said.
Wicked Brew looks pretty close to what they’d dreamed about, from the profusion of art hanging all over the space, to the huge mural, painted by MacLellan Sr., that dominates an entire wall.
Classic, traditional espresso beverages made with Wicked Joe beans are served, with MacLellan Sr. manning the espresso machine, though regular drip coffee, cold brew iced coffee and iced teas and lattes also are available.
There’s food, of course, with scones, muffins and cookies in the pastry case, and daily specials on soups and sandwiches, as well as a daily smoothie — if it’s on special, the raspberry avocado smoothie is a treat.
Overall, it’s the kind of cozy, artsy coffee shop you expect to see in any city — a place where people can gather to hang out, read, write, and leisurely sip a handcrafted beverage.
“We wanted to bring a little culture to Bangor. There’s a certain kind of vibe you get from a cafe. I don’t want to go to Starbucks. I want to go to a real, authentic place,” Marri MacLellan said.
The MacLellan family has a long history with coffee. MacLellan Sr. opened the Daily Grind, Bangor’s first modern coffee shop, in 1992, at 26 Broad St., on West Market Square, which was open until 1996.
“Bangor hadn’t seen anything like the Daily Grind. There weren’t any espresso machines back then. There was no Starbucks … We worked there full time when we were kids. We used to do live seasonal displays in the windows. My sister and I would dress up during Christmas and wave to people. People loved it,” Marri MacLellan said. “I think the work ethic and the environment of a place like that just stuck with us.”
MacLellan Sr. in 1993 also opened the original Coffee Express on State Street, with his then wife; he co-owned it until 1997, when they sold the business.
After that, family members went in and out of the food business. Marri MacLellan worked as a restaurant manager in Portland and Burlington, Vermont. Kate Proctor waited tables around southern Maine. Kevin MacLellan Sr. moved to Florida for a while, before returning to Bangor; he also raised two more children, Kevin Jr. and Lexi. But by 2016, everyone was back in Maine. Proctor and Marri MacLellan had their own families, and they were both living in Portland.
Last year, Proctor decided that finally, after 20 years, she wanted to try to open that long dreamed-for coffee shop with her family.
“She said, ‘I want to do this, and I want to do this in Bangor, and I want you to move to Bangor to do it with me,” Marri MacLellan said. “That was August of last year. We just up and left and moved up here. We found this space over the winter. Dad’s been working on it since February.”
The location at 173 Park St. was formerly home to vintage shop Ivy & Lace. Once the owners of that shop decided to close their retail storefront, the MacLellan family took over the lease — and purchased lots of antiques, paintings and other wall hangings from Ivy & Lace, most of which are on display at Wicked Brew.
“The aesthetic of the place was already in place. No matter where we’d have landed in town, this is what it would have looked like,” Proctor said. “When you think about something for years, by the time you get to actually doing it, it’s all mapped out in your head.”
In addition to the antiques and wall hangings — which include original paintings by Kevin MacLellan Sr., funky lamps and vases, and historic photos of Bangor — there are lots of other nifty visual touches. One of the display cases that holds the various syrups for making flavored lattes is made from the top of an old player piano the family found and repurposed. The ceiling is strung with little white lights, to give the impression of the night sky.
And, in one corner, eagle-eyed Bangorians may notice a little piece of contemporary Bangor history: the massive, red vinyl, circular booth that for decades sat in the dining room at the now-closed Howard Johnson Restaurant in Bangor. When HoJo’s closed in September 2016, pieces of the restaurants went up for sale online — and Proctor just happened to see the circular booth on Craigslist.
“We had to go in there and take it out. We didn’t think it was coming out. It’s a monster,” Proctor said. “But it’s perfect. It’s got so much personality.”
Since opening in late May, the entire family has been chipping in — Marri’s older daughter, Skyla, also works part time, and even grandmother Juanita Estey pitches in with her soup recipes and daily deliveries of floral arrangements from her garden.
So far, customers have responded more positively than anyone in the family could have hoped for.
“We already have regulars. They’re coming from the neighborhood. They’re coming from John Bapst, just up the street. They’re even coming from Bangor High. Teenagers need a place to hang out,” Proctor said. “Strangers sit at tables together. It’s been just so cool to see. It’s exactly what we want.”