WESTBROOK – From Mexican food to Jewish delicatessen sandwiches to seafood, the storefront at 650 Main Street has served a wide variety of cuisines over the last dozen years, but Alex Stone and Greg Souza hope they have found the recipe for success with the businesses they are opening in that spot: Blazes Burgers and Parkside Ice Cream.
Blazes Burger will operate in much of the space formerly occupied by Fisherman’s Grill. Stone will sublet another part of the space to Souza, who will turn it into Parkside Cone. Stone said he and Souza hope to have a soft opening April 15, with a grand opening by May 1, if not sooner. Souza said the opening date is contingent on how quickly renovations can be accomplished and code inspection can be done.
“It’s going to be a good old fashion burger place. It’s not frozen patties (but) freshly seasoned, put together right there, with french fries, tater tots or onion rings,” Stone said. The restaurant will also feature chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets, hot dog and grilled cheese options for children.
Souza said Parkside Ice Cream will offer 30 flavors of hard-serve ice cream, possibility from Shain’s of Maine, as well as soft-serve, shakes, sundaes and smoothies. Souza said he would like to have Parkside Ice Cream open year-round, but customer demand will determine if that is possible.
“I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like ice cream, so I’ll let the customers tell me when to close,” he said.
Stone, who has worked in home health care, staff recruitment and property management, has long dreamed of opening his own restaurant.
“I’ve always had a passion to do something like this and the timing is right,” said Stone, a Westbrook resident.
Stone is excited to offer this new food option to his community.
“Not only was I on the school board for eight years, I have been a coach in this town, through Little League, basketball, football. I ran the (recreational) soccer program for a few years. I certainly have ties in the community. I know a lot of people and have two boys in the school system right now.”
Souza also has strong ties to the community as a realtor and mortgage professional in Westbrook and as the current head coach of the Westbrook High School varsity baseball team. Souza has also coached youth baseball and youth and high school soccer. Souza had lived in Westbrook since 2000, but moved out of town to flip a house in Gray. He is looking to move back to Westbrook once that Gray residence is sold.
Stone said his vision is not simply to offer good food at a good price, but also to give back to the community along the way. The restaurant will have Clynk bags that benefit local charities and one night a month, 10 percent of the proceeds will benefit a local group.
“We are here to be part of the community,” Stone said.
Both Blazes Burgers and Parkside Cone are new and something property owner Bernard Willimann is looking forward to.
“I think the two businesses are going to be awesome for downtown Westbrook,” Willimann said.
Willimann said he had several offers from businesses interested in the space, including a national bakery retailer, a hair salon and several other restaurants, including those that sell Syrian and organic food.
“I was looking for something that would be unique and different for Westbrook,” Willimann said.
Willimann, who purchased the 5,520-square-foot-building, built in 1940, from Schoodic Capital LLC in February 2017 for $532,500, felt a burger restaurant/ice cream shop would be the perfect combination for the spot and a natural draw for families who might be playing in Riverbank Park across the street.
“I thought it would be the best fit for that space,” he said.
The proximity to the park was a determining factor in how Stone developed his business plan.
“During the summer, if you don’t have a product that works with them, what’s the point,” Stone said, as he looked out the window of the restaurant storefront and saw numerous families enjoying the park.
Souza has wanted to open an ice cream shop for the last three or four years, but couldn’t find the right spot for it. The 650 Main Street location, Souza said, is the spot he has been looking for since it is located next to Riverbank Park and far enough away from possible competitors: Dairy Queen at 272 Main Street and Beal’s Old Fashion Ice Cream on Route 25/Main Street in Gorham.
Fisherman’s Grill, which had relocated to the space in 2017 after a dozen years in Portland, officially closed in mid-February. It was open just a few months. Prior to that, the storefront was home to Rosen’s Deli, which operated for close to 30 years as Full Belly Deli in Portland. The deli closed with no notice in February 2017, almost two years after moving to Westbrook and about 1 1/2 years after owners David and Arren Rosen filed for bankruptcy. Prior to the Rosens taking over the space, it was home to Blue Burrito, which started in as Burrito in 2006.
When they open the doors, Blazes Burger and Parkside Ice Cream will be the third and fourth new eatery to open on Main Street since mid-March. Quill Books and Beverage officially opened in Westbrook Commons on March 17, three days before Veranda Kitchen and Bar opened at 672 Main Street.
Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Souza (left) and Alex Stone are excited to begin offering ice cream and burgers at an empty storefront across from Riverbank Park. The site is the former home of Fisherman’s Grill, which officially closed earlier this year after less than a year in the space. (Staff photo by Michael Kelley)
A vacant storefront at 652 Main Street is soon going to be a place for burgers and ice cream. Greg Souza, left, is using part of the space for Parkside Ice Cream, while the bulk of it will become home to Blazes Burger, a venture of Alex Stone. (Staff photo by Michael Kelley)