Matt Haskell, owner of Blaze Restaurants in Bangor and Bar Harbor and the Finback Alehouse, also in Bar Harbor, announced on Tuesday morning the newest addition to his growing restaurant portfolio: Blaze Urban Pizza, a fast-casual gourmet pizza place and beer garden, set to open on Main Street this winter.
Haskell said he’s been in talks for months about leasing and renovating 329 Main St., the former home of Gold Star Cleaners before it moved to the corner of Union and Third. The location, next door to Dunkin’ Donuts, has been empty since May 2013.
Blaze Urban Pizza will offer gourmet wood-fired pizza similar to what is served at the sit-down restaurant in downtown Bangor, as well as wood-fired chicken wings with a variety of sauces and rubs, pre-made salads and house-made frozen custard. There will also an in-house catering company and an in-house brewery, the latter of which, dubbed Blaze Brewing Company, will serve Haskell’s other dining establishments and growing catering clientele.
“The wood-fired pizza concept is something that will pair well with the original Blaze in West Market Square,” said Haskell. “I’ve wanted to do something like this, but never had a place big enough to do it. Blaze Brewing has been on the back burner for a long time, until I could find a good brewer and a good place to do it… we found Tim Wilson, who will be our head brewer, and we found this place.”
The pizza at Blaze Urban Pizza will differ from what’s served at Blaze in West Market in a few key ways. Firstly, the Main Street location will use slow fermentation pizza dough made from Maine Grains flour, offering a chewier, denser crust. It will also utilize all organic vegetables and all-natural meats, as will the grab and go salads. Unlike the West Market Blaze, Blaze Urban Pizza will not offer table service, though there will be seating inside. They will instead offer counter service and take-out only.
Blaze Brewing Company, headed up by longtime local home brewer Wilson, will be housed in the space, with another brewing operation set to open in Bar Harbor in the coming months. Haskell said his focus for the brewery will be to offer beer made in-house for his restaurants — not to compete with the now nine different breweries in the Bangor area.
“The market in this area is starting to get a little saturated, so we’re only going to have a two-barrel system in Bangor, but we’ll have a bigger system in Bar Harbor, since that area is not quite as saturated with breweries,” he said. “This is really going to be a modern take on a traditional brew pub. We’re not going to distribute. It’s going to be small, just for us.”
A new kitchen for Blazin’ Nation Catering Company will be built in the basement of the building. Haskell has been offering catering via his mobile wood-fired brick oven for the past two summers, but has outgrown that setup due to high demand.
“The catering element just needs its own kitchen,” said Haskell. “We’ve really been growing.”
Haskell is shooting to begin construction on the space in the next two weeks. As with the Blaze restaurants in Bangor and Bar Harbor, Haskell is partnering with Ervin Architecture to design the space, and utilizing Maine Heritage Timber as part of the design scheme. Maine Heritage Timbers uses timber reclaimed from the bottom of Maine’s rivers, transforming them into high-end building and decorative materials.
“Maine Heritage Timbers will play a huge role in the look of this place,” said Haskell. “We’re really committed to making this place as green and environmentally friendly as possible. All our packaging will be biodegradable. No plastic.”
If all goes as planned, Haskell hopes to have Blaze Urban Pizza open for business by the end of 2016 at the earliest, end of January at the latest. Though the space will not be fully complete even at that point: in the spring, Haskell plans to add a large rooftop beer garden to his new eatery.
“We’ve got to figure out what we need to do to shore up the building to make that happen, but we’d love to have an open air beer garden where people can listen to the concerts in the summer,” said Haskell. “We’re really pumped to be on Main Street.”