BANGOR, Maine — Early Tuesday morning, the smell of cleaning supplies and fresh paint wafted through the front door of Bagel Central, replacing the familiar scent of just-baked bagels and brewing coffee. Staff, normally serving up towering sandwiches or ladling out steaming bowls of soup, donned activewear and scrubbed chairs or painted countertops to the din of hammers and electrical work in the kitchen behind them.
The renovations are part of the bakery’s weeklong closure during which construction crews will add nearly 1,000 square feet, including an additional kitchen and meeting space, owner Sonya Eldridge said.
Before the renovations, Bagel Central did its short-order cooking and baking in the same kitchen where bakers worked overnight shifts to make hundreds of bagels, bread and other goods for the next morning.
Eldridge said the eatery outgrew its kitchen about five years ago, but it became more noticeable during the last three.
“It’s been really difficult to feed everyone out of this small space,” Eldridge said, gesturing to the former kitchen.
A wall between the old kitchen and the new space, which was formerly the home of children’s book and toy store The Briar Patch, has been knocked out and reframed. The Briar Patch moved one door over into the Top Shelf Comics space in March. Before that, Top Shelf Comics moved to the former site of Best Bib & Tucker Clothiers on Main Street.
A new oven, nicknamed “Baxter,” can bake 64 dozen — yes, 64 dozen — bagels at a time, has already been unpackaged and sits proudly in one corner. Ultrabright LED lights, almost flush with the building’s vaulted ceiling, flood the room with light, showing off the many industrial mixers, stove tops and wooden counters just waiting to be used next week.
Eldridge gets teary-eyed talking about the expansion, a longtime dream coming true.
“It’s emotional … it’s exciting, it’s overwhelming, but in a positive way,” she said.
Although renovations to the main space will wrap up later this week, the rentable meeting space won’t open for a few months. Eldridge hopes to keep fees reasonable, most likely around $20 an hour, which will include a wireless Internet connection, a projector, a kitchenette and optional catering.
She envisions the space as an extension of perhaps Bagel Central’s most well-known feature — the cozy, community-centric atmosphere where you’re just as likely to see your family doctor as a good friend.
“I want it to be homey, a comfortable place for people,” she said.
In the meantime, Eldridge is encouraging people to peek in the cafe windows and see the progress. It’s all part of the bakery’s reputation as a gathering place for Bangor’s young and old.
“[This place] binds people together somehow, it gives people a place to socialize … it’s so much bigger than me. Sometimes I look out at everyone and I’m amazed,” she said.
Bagel Central, located at 33 Central St. in Bangor, will reopen at 6 a.m. Monday, April 27.