Le Garage, the restaurant on the Wiscasset waterfront, has a new owner for the first time since 1977. A chef who lives in Southport, he plans to bring back a year-round restaurant, which may or may not have the same name.
Ed Colburn, who grew up outside Boston in Dover, Massachusetts, bought the restaurant from Cheryl “Shep” Rust on Friday, Feb. 15. Rust had owned the restaurant since 1977 and operated it until it closed in April 2017.
Colburn has family ties to Southport and spent summers there when he was growing up. He worked in restaurants in Boothbay Harbor during summers as a teenager, washing dishes at the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club and waiting tables at Linekin Bay Resort. “I was told I was the first male waiter in the history of the resort,” he said.
“I’ve always enjoyed the Midcoast region,” Colburn said. “I have cousins who grew up on the peninsula and still live in the area.”
Colburn worked in the kitchen of The Daily Catch Restaurant in Seaport, Massachusetts, one of three locations, with others in Brookline and North End, after graduating from Brandeis University in 2011.
Colburn said he always had a desire to cook professionally. He took the job in the kitchen to make sure it was a career he’d want to pursue, and he hasn’t looked back. “I continued to learn as much as I could while consistently moving up in rank and responsibility in the kitchen,” he said.
After cooking at the Seaport location of The Daily Catch for over a year, he took the position of chef of the Brookline location when the previous chef left to open his own restaurant. “I was given the opportunity to head the kitchen,” Colburn said. “I jumped at the opportunity.”
He worked at the Seaport restaurant until the spring of 2017, when he took the position of assistant manager of The Daily Catch Restaurant Group’s new seafood processing plant and commissary kitchen on the Boston Fish Pier in South Boston.
In 2018, Colburn, in his early 30s, knew he was ready to open his own restaurant.
“I felt the timing seemed right to go out on my own and start a restaurant with the knowledge and skills I have learned working in a high-volume professional kitchen,” he said. He moved to Southport, and last spring he started a search for the perfect spot.
“Ideally I wanted a location on the water, with character,” he said. “When I saw Le Garage, I felt it had a great location with the bonus of having a top-notch reputation as a restaurant.”
As he started researching and learning all he could about the restaurant, he found that almost everyone he spoke to had fond memories of Le Garage. “People encouraged me to open a new restaurant there, as the demand for new restaurants in the Wiscasset area was a common talking point,” he said.
He contacted the real estate agent for the property, Tyson Soule, of William Raveis Carleton Real Estate, then met with Rust. A bond was formed and Colburn tentatively arrived at his decision to buy her restaurant during that meeting.
Colburn will act as owner-chef of his new restaurant, which may or may not continue under the name Le Garage. Rust attributes the name to her mother and stepfather, Charlotte and Crosby Hodgman, who purchased the building, then Rines Garage, in 1974 from the Rines family. “They loved France and the roots of the building, a garage,” Rust said.
Colburn is finalizing a menu and working with the design team at Knickerbocker Group for what he calls “an updated vision of the historic building.” He plans to use as many local products as possible and introduce dishes that will be “unique and different than the norm in the area.”
“The Daily Catch was a Sicilian seafood restaurant, so seafood and pasta have become my primary expertise,” he said. “My plan is to expand beyond this with farm-fresh produce and salads, plus tasty meat dishes.”
Rust’s support of Colburn’s endeavor to start his first restaurant means a lot to him.
“Shep has been amazingly kind and helpful throughout the whole process of purchasing the property,” he said. “She has been incredibly supportive and is very enthusiastic to see a restaurant reopening in the space she called home for 40 years.”
“We immediately clicked when I met with her,” he said. “The plan was to have a short meeting to learn about the property and her experiences there, (and it) turned into a three-hour-long conversation about the restaurant and life and everything else in between. We were hugging each other by the end the day.”
The feeling is mutual, and Rust couldn’t be more pleased with the transition. “My sense of this very impressive entrepreneur is that he brings great talent, authenticity, experience, sensitivity, conscience, and vision to the next chapters of life at 15 Water St.,” she said.
“I am so pleased for our community and for the traditions of quality and strong foundations launched by the Rines brothers, who formed a cornerstone to and a stage for the future of all that happens within that amazing structure,” Rust said.
Colburn said he will hire most of his employees locally, but a friend from a previous job will act as manager. “He’s very excited about moving to Maine and helping to open a restaurant in a space with such a strong reputation,” he said.
Plans call for an opening in late spring. The restaurant will operate year-round, serving lunch and dinner, and eventually a weekend brunch.