Supply chain delays push back new restaurant openings in southern Maine
Oct. 23 — The buttery flaky croissants that have been drawing foodie tourists to Munjoy Hill for the past five years would have been baked fresh by the thousands by now, had the Forest Avenue production bakery in Belleville opened as planned.
The Portland bakery has been renting the space for 14 months, but first the cold room order was canceled and then the custom oven was delayed. The opening that was scheduled for June now seems to take place in November.
Many of the region’s planned restaurant and food store openings this year have been bogged down by major delays, reflecting the harsh reality that Belleville has come up against headlong. In summary: workers everywhere and the things they produce are scarce and backward.
General shortages have played a role in delaying planned launches across the Portland area, from Thai restaurant Mitr outside Congress Street to Brighton Avenue’s Twin Swirls ice cream shop, the Freeport location of Goodfire Brewing Co. and A&C Soda Shop in South Portland. It’s not just affecting local small business owners, either – even New Hampshire-based regional breakfast restaurant chain The Friendly Toast faced some delay with clearance before open this month on Fore Street.
Slowdowns have proven so pervasive and systemic that owners say the best they can do is accept reality and adjust their deadlines accordingly. They realize that their openings have been delayed because so many things in so many places have been blocked, one way or another.
Since opening on North Street in 2017, Belleville has earned a reputation for producing some of the finest baked goods, including Roman-style pastries and pizzas. Word of plans for a second location — a production bakery with a small retail space that would nearly quadruple Bellville’s production — has mouths drooling all over town.
But then came supply chain issues. Owner Chris Deutsch had his cold room order canceled by the manufacturer, which was late and unable to meet demand. Its rotary rack oven and fermentation equipment took four months longer to arrive from Europe than usual.
Even after the material arrived, the delays persisted. Belleville had assembly and operational issues with the custom ovens, shutting down several weeks before Deutsch could find a qualified technician to take care of them.
Deutsch remains admirably optimistic, especially for someone paying rent on a space that hasn’t been opened for over a year. “We’ve been trying to earn as much as we can over the last six months (at the North Street site), and it’s been great, but we’re ready to take the next step,” he said. -he declares.
TARGET DATES MOVED
Chaval co-owners Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti originally hoped to open their new bakery and cafe, The Ugly Duckling, in Portland’s West End by June, offering buttermilk English muffins in the morning and switching to cocktails and charcuterie in the afternoon. But the path to launch has been fraught with delays and hiccups, Lopez said, including a 20-week wait for a stove, due to supply chain issues.
“There’s not a single company that has enough staff to do something in the time frame you need,” Lopez said. “It’s the same in Chaval – we can’t open the full dining hall, we can’t open seven days a week because we don’t have enough people. If you think about it, this whole country is in the same boat. So I can’t really complain that it’s just me waiting for the oven.”
Like Deutsch, Lopez is now planning a November opening for the space she has already rented for months. But she said she has come to accept that the delay is beyond her control and that the delay may in fact be what she needs, since Chaval is understaffed and also needs her attention now.
“We’re fine,” Lopez said. “It’s not worth getting frustrated about it.”
As for the strain the delay has put on Belleville’s books, Deutsch said, there are blessings there too. “We had to kind of restructure some things. But we were lucky that our retail business on North Street kind of kept us afloat.
“There really isn’t much you can do,” Deutsch continued. “Anyway, we all face these logistical issues.”
Joe Fournier, who is reopening Portland’s former A&C Grocery market as the A&C Soda Shop on Cottage Road in South Portland, said he originally planned to launch in July. Now, like Deutsch and Lopez, he’s on track for November.
“We started working on the space in February, and we didn’t even have a floor until about three weeks ago. It was all supply chain issues, that’s where we hung on,” Fournier said.
Partners Michael Barbuto, Kevin Doyle (co-owners of CBG on Congress Street in Portland) and Ian MacGregor first laid out their plan for opening The Continental 14 months ago. They settled on a 2,200 square foot location on Brighton Avenue in Portland that needed new equipment and a complete renovation inside.
The Continental was conceived as something of a passion project for the partners, who felt drawn to the nostalgia of the British and Irish-style pubs they loved growing up in the mid-’90s in and around Boston. The team imagined The Continental as a mahogany bar with dark leather booths and club chairs, Europub comfort food – meat pies, scotch eggs, fish and chips, Irish breakfast – and filled pints from Guinness, Bass Ale, Old Speckled Hen or Boddingtons.
“The whole experience was kind of magical for a guy who had just turned 21 at the time,” Barbuto said.
They were initially hoping to open in July. “It was probably naive and short-sighted, but we hoped,” Barbuto said. But unexpected delays, mostly related to the building permit process, led the partners to revise the planned launch some time before the end of the year.
“I have a birthday at the end of September and I thought I would be running this business then,” Barbuto said. “Even in April, it seemed doable.”
Barbuto said his team believed the permitting authorities at City Hall were understaffed, resulting in longer turnaround times for various requests.
But according to City of Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin, who acknowledged the staffing shortages, licensing authorities have caused no unusual delays in Portland restaurants opening this summer or fall.
Barbuto conceded that his team and general contractor, Portland-based Oceanside Property Management and Construction, are relatively new to the city’s permitting procedures.
“Maybe it’s just a slow process, maybe six months is typical,” Barbuto said. “That seems like a long time to me, because there aren’t many landlords willing to forgive rent for more than two or three months.”
Barbuto said his contractor told him as soon as he received the required permits, “things will start moving quickly.” Still, The Continental has been paying the rent in full since May 1, putting pressure on him and his team.
“We try to keep a good attitude about it,” he said. “Nobody put a gun to our heads. We chose this. We work very hard. But we would like our stress to shift to the promotions we are having tonight, or if someone has fixed the toilets in progress rather than things like, are the bathrooms already built. Just normal restaurant stuff.