STANDISH — It’s in with the old and in with the new at an historic building in Standish, where the town’s historical society is sharing space with a new restaurant and bar.
Two Black Dogs Country Pub, owned by husband and wife Bill and Leigh Haines, recently relocated from Fryeburg to the Old Tompson House at the corner of routes 25 and 35.
The restaurant opened June 20 and Bill Haines, who also serves as chef, said business has been “beyond expectations so far.”
“We think of ourselves as an English-style pub, which kind of fits the building,” said Haines, who is planning for a grand opening ceremony on Friday, Aug. 3, at 10:30 a.m.
The Haines have moved to town and have a three-year lease on the Tompson House, which dates back to the late 1700s, with an option to buy it from current owner James E. Cummings.
They are subleasing the third floor of the building to the Standish Historical Society, which hopes to open a museum in the space by the end of August.
The society has long sought new space to house and display historical objects, conduct historical research and hold events. It will also continue to use space at the nearby Old Red Church, which has presented several challenges including lack of heat and accessibility issues.
“This allows us to have a year-round presence, rather than just a summer season,” said historical society secretary Jan Bradford.
The society had initially hoped to buy the entire building, but members are excited about the current arrangement.
“It’s good for the restaurant, it’s good for us,” said member Diane Herrick.
“And for the town,” Bradford added. “The building itself has an incredible history.”
The Tompson House, which once belonged to the family of the Rev. John Tompson, has been home to various enterprises over the years including a tavern, a phone company and several restaurants.
It most recently housed restaurant O.Dans, which closed abruptly in 2016. A spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Labor said the state agency has received complaints from two former employees about unpaid wages.
Haines said it has been an uphill but win-able battle to convince people that Two Black Dogs can succeed in the space where other restaurants have failed. Early on, the restaurant was “running out of things” and the “service was slow,” he said, citing an inexperienced staff that was initially unfamiliar with the menu. Things have since “calmed down” and “the staff has gotten much better,” he said.
“I can’t say enough about just how gracious this whole town has been,” he added about the reception from the community and town officials.
“The people just are really kind,” Leigh Haines said.
The couple first opened Two Black Dogs – named for their pets – in North Conway, New Hampshire, in 2010 before moving the business to Fryeburg. After five years in Fryeburg, including some difficult winter seasons, they decided to give the Standish location a try after Haines noticed it driving back and forth between Portland.
“This is the third edition of the Black Dogs,” Haines said. “We will succeed.”
The 110-seat restaurant features several dining rooms and a bar on the second floor. As the chef, Haines cooks up pub fare classics like bangers and mash and steak and stout pie. He said they also have a lineup of specialty sandwiches, and plan to start nightly specials.
“I’m behind the line everyday, all day,” Haines said, adding that the current labor market has presented a challenge in terms of hiring a qualified staff, which now numbers 21.
“This is the hardest restaurant that I’ve ever opened,” he said.
On the third floor, the historical society hasn’t had any trouble finding volunteer workers – mostly society members – to help transform the six rooms.
“We don’t want to touch too much, because it’s an historic building,” said Treasurer Karen Herrick, adding that she is “super excited” about the project.
“The momentum is really now on a great roll,” said Diane Herrick, Karen’s mother.
The society plans to hold rotating exhibits in the museum. It will have a room for conducting historical research and an event space with a dance floor.
Karen Herrick said down the road the group society would like to create a network of nearby historic building for people visits as a sort of history trail. The historic Marrett House sits across the street and the Old Red Church is close by.
“Hopefully there will be a nice little block of historic buildings” Herrick said.
She also made it clear that the society is thrilled with its new landlords, and the feelings appear mutual.
“They’re fantastic,” Karen Herrick said about the Haines.
“I think it will be a good partnership,” Haines added.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
It’s a time of new beginnings at the Old Tompson House in Standish. Bill and Leigh Haines, left, have opened the Two Black Dogs Country Pub. They are sub-leasing the third floor of the building to the Standish Historical Society, represented here by Jan Bradford, far right, and Diane Herrick.