Late in the evening of Jan. 14, Brother Donald Paul, co-owner of the Friars’ Brewhouse Tap Room in downtown Bucksport, wasn’t feeling so hot. Eventually, Brother Kenneth Leo, his fellow Francisan Friar, decided it was bad enough to merit a trip to the emergency room, where it was determined that Brother Don, as he’s affectionately known, had suffered a massive heart attack.
A week later, Brother Don had undergone an emergency quadruple bypass, and it was clear that the Friars’ Brewhouse Tap Room would have to stay closed indefinitely while he recuperated at their monastery, located on Orcutt Mountain in Bucksport.
Less than two months after his surgery, however, Brother Don reopened the tap room in late March. The tap room, serving the Friars’ craft beers alongside Brother Don’s menu of fresh baked goods and French Canadian and pan-European appetizers and entrees, is now back to regular operating hours, and Brother Don says he’s feeling better than he has in decades.
“I think with heart troubles, it’s so progressive and gradual that you don’t notice things are wrong,” Brother Don, 61, said. “You think, ‘Oh, my hands hurt’ and you say ‘Well, I’m a baker,’ You say ‘My feet are swollen,’ and then you think, ‘Well, I’m on my feet all day.’ It really sneaks up on you.”
Brothers Don and Kenneth are well known in eastern Maine for their two eateries. The first, the Friars’ Bakehouse, operated on Central Street in downtown Bangor for nearly two decades, offering up hearty homemade breads, soups and sweet treats for lunch. In 2013, the brothers began selling their craft beer at stores and in a few restaurants. In February 2018, the Bangor business closed, and in April 2018, the Friars’ Brewhouse Tap Room opened in downtown Bucksport.
Brother Don said there was an outpouring of support from their church community, from local businesses and from the greater community. Longtime Friar’s customer Mary Jude started a GoFundMe page to assist the friars with paying bills while the business was closed, and since they have reopened, they have had multiple daily visitors coming in to check up on them.
“Our cash flow went to zero for two months,” he said. “It was immensely helpful to us.”
Brother Don credits his ability to get back to work and reopen in such a short amount of time with the fact that he diligently followed doctor’s orders when it came to recovery and rehabilitation. He’s already signed up for a triathlon in the fall.
“Besides all the physical and emotional challenges, I think the biggest thing when you’re dealing with heart surgery is to just make sure you prioritize yourself and the process of rehab,” he said. “If you don’t take that time to really take care of yourself, you won’t fully recover.”