South Portland repair shop could have future as neighborhood pub

The husband-and-wife duo of Julia and Craig Dilger announced plans Thursday to buy an abandoned repair shop in the Knightville section of South Portland and convert the space into a neighborhood brew pub.

The Dilgers are working with engineers on a plan to rehabilitate the 15 Ocean St. property, and will begin seeking appropriate city permits for their new business soon thereafter, according to a news release issued today.

The couple, which lives in nearby Portland, isn’t publicly naming the chef or brewer they plan to bring for the establishment because of their “existing commitments” — which is to say their current employers would be angry to learn in the media they’re leaving to join this new operation. However, the Dilgers offered this hint in their Thursday announcement: “[The chef, brewers and front of house picks] all come with prestigious resumes, and will collaborate to offer an unpretentious yet modern and comfortable aesthetic in terms of food, drink and experience.”

The release goes on to tease:

“Plans include family brunch on the weekends, ‘Pints and Purls’ knit nights and bicycle racks for those coming from the nearby Eastern Trail. The brewpub will offer the only beer brewed commercially within the city of South Portland.”

Julia Dilger is a former Peaks Island elementary school teacher, but isn’t a total stranger to the world of food service, having worked for several years on the management side of a Broadway concessions business in New York City.

Julia Dilger, who will be the brewpub’s CEO, said Knightville — which fell on hard times after the bridge to Portland was relocated and commuter traffic dried up — is now re-emerging as a “quintessential New England village with a great community vibe.”

While the Dilgers are acknowledging they’ve got a long way to go before they open for business, they’re distributing an online form neighbors can fill out to be aware of the project’s process and be alerted to neighborhood meetings about it. Click here to find that form and sign up.

“Meeting our new neighbors is the most important order of business,” Julia Dilger said in a statement. “This is a great city and a great part of town.”