BANGOR, Maine — Just 11 months after taking over Raena’s Pub, Mike Towle and Melissa Smith Towle decided to add another business to their growing empire.
The owners of the newly renamed Penobscot Pour House at 14 Larkin St. are a month into running the restaurant and concessions operations at Bangor Municipal Golf Course.
“Yeah, since 2007, we’ve added two kids, a new house, two businesses, three vehicles, and two degrees,” Mike Towle said with a laugh, followed by a sigh.
The Towles renamed the Bangor Muni food operation Grill on the Green and also operate the drinks-snacks cart at the golf course. While it’s still early in their ownership, the Towles’ offerings seem to be hitting the spot with golfers and nongolfers alike.
The Towles said they weren’t looking to add a business, but a conversation between Rob Jarvis, the assistant PGA pro at Bangor Municipal, and Melissa Smith Towle, a personal trainer who trains Jarvis, about local eateries launched an idea.
“They were talking about outdoor dining in Bangor where you can sit outside and have a bite to eat with a view,” Mike Towle explained. “Rob mentioned the 40-foot deck and the restaurant there, and that the lease, which comes up for public bid every six years, was up.”
Because the Towles have a lifelong dream to own a bed and breakfast, and they had money to invest, they jumped at the chance to run a place that serves more than bar food and snacks.
“We called City Hall, got help on what to do, and threw a proposal together,” said Towle, a 35-year-old Dexter native who worked in Bar Harbor, where he met Mapleton native Melissa. “We have 20 years’ restaurant experience between us, so we came up with a menu we thought was simple but good food.”
The Hampden residents cut down on the fried food, but kept the Friday fish fry and other popular specials while greatly expanding the menu to include grilled chicken, salads and a new favorite: lobster rolls. Everything, including sauces, is made on site.
The Grill on the Green is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week. Penobscot Pour House is open 1 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Thursday and noon-1 a.m. Friday-Sunday. There are a total of 16 people on the Towle family payroll — 10 at the Grill.
“We kind of divvy it up where she’s at the golf course more than I am and I’m at the Pour House,” he said.
The Towles, who soon will celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, manage to run both businesses successfully in addition to raising two children — Jackson, 4, and Mckenley, 6 — and taking college classes.
“I spent the last four years earning an accounting degree from Husson University and now it’s Melissa’s turn to get her doctorate in physical therapy,” Towle said.
They pooled their personal savings with loans from family members to buy Raena’s, and only had to invest their own savings to submit the high bid of $16,500 to run Bangor Muni’s food and drink services.
“We opened the Penobscot, borrowed money, paid all the debt back in six months and still made a profit. Then we drained our savings to open the grill,” he said. “It’s tough, but we’re young. At least, that’s what we keep telling ourselves.”