The $4 million overhaul of Tontine Mall in Brunswick may be wrapped up by December, according to owner Dan Caitlin.
Additions include 16 new apartments above the mall and renovations to existing commercial locations. Other improvements include 12-foot-wide retractable windows and a 48-seat outdoor patio with gas heaters covered by a glass canopy.
Including planning, the work has been about a three-year process, Caitlin said.
Tontine Mall will hold nine commercial tenants and around 90 employees. Two commercial spaces remain open as of Thursday.
Current and incoming tenants include Eveningstar Cinema, Elizabeth Nails and Spa, Indrani’s, The Butchers & Bakers, Engel & Volkers, Edward Jones and Academy of Medical Professions.
The apartments are for rent at market rate, between $1,400-$1,700, and already have tenants lined up. Apartments on the upper level may be available by Thanksgiving, Caitlin said, with the remainder to be finished by Christmas.
Taking over Wild Oats bakery location will be The Butchers & Bakers, a gluten-free bakery, butchery and café owned and operated by Marissa Stahl-Hodgkins, the majority owner, and Steven Campbell.
According to Campbell, him and Stahl-Hodgkins met while working at Whole Foods Market together, and eventually decided to go into business. The Butchers & Bakers is expected to create about 25 new jobs.
Campbell said that the decision to come to Brunswick was for a combination of reasons, including the vibrant downtown, Bowdoin College and the local farm scene.
“We just like the intellect, the work ethic, the people in Brunswick — their values fit ours,” said Campbell. Additionally, Campbell said, the Tontine is a proven location for a successful bakery, as Wild Oats operated there for 29 years.
According to Wild Oats owner Becky Shepard, the decision to relocated to Brunswick Landing was because of a desire for more space and to avoid the construction.
As for The Music Center location, Caitlin said that he has spoken with several restaurant owners about potentially taking the space, noting that some retail struggled throughout the pandemic.
“I’m pretty confident that we are going to find another food use that will complement the Butcher & the Baker,” said Caitlin. “Food is strong, right, there’s 26-plus restaurants on Maine Street and through the pandemic, food was strong.”
Music Center owner Jerry Perron said he decided to leave the Tontine about two years ago, although when the pandemic hit the moving process was stalled. Perron has owned The Music Center at Tontine for 27 years and said the new location at the Topsham Fair Mall will open Halloween weekend.
“I had outgrown my space,” Perron said. “The smallest lesson room in the new space is more than twice the size of my biggest lesson room in the Tontine Mall.”
Indrani Dennen, owner of Indrani’s, said that with construction wrapping up, and COVID-19 being more under control, the coming months feel like the light at the end of the tunnel.
Indrani’s, a Brunswick business for around 30 years, sells women’s clothing and jewelry, African drums, baskets, gifts and beads.
“Unfortunately, these things happen so we had to close briefly to get the floors done,” said Dennen when asked about the construction. “It wasn’t all that drastic in the long run. It gave us an opportunity to clean up and paint.”
Dennen and Campbell said they believe having residential tenants above the mall will benefit business and draw more people into the Tontine.
Shaun Boyle, the owner of Eveningstar Cinema, said that while he’s very much looking forward to the construction wrapping up, and despite some short-term challenges, the improvements will be worth it in the long-run.
“The construction is also going to give me the ability at the theater to expand into the former common space, so I’ll be able to build out a new concession stand, box office, maybe a little lounge bar area,” Boyle said.
Eveningstar Cinema closed between March 2020 and July 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Boyle said the closure due to the pandemic allowed the construction to have much less of an impact on business. The cinema has been at Tontine Mall since 1979.
Overall, Boyle said, business has been slow since the older crowd he typically attracts are more cautious of COVID. He said in the next six months, as vaccine eligibility expands, hopefully business will pick up.
Prior to the mall, the Tontine Hotel was located in the same lot, which burned in a fire in 1904. According to previous reports by The Times Record, the Tontine Mall has been a local fixture since 1922.