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Lewiston shuffle: Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen's growth fuels changes

The food-and-drink landscape on Center Street in Lewiston is about to experience a significant reshuffling in 2020, with three businesses on the move and several new concepts in the works.

The August announcement that Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen and co-owner Michael Hibbard would move from 800 Center St., where it's been since opening in 2016, to take over the plaza at 402 Center St., set the wheels in motion for the changes.

By summer, the culinary landscape will look much different.

Reshaping the plaza at 402 Center

After purchasing the plaza, Gallo's original plan for reshaping 402 Center St. was to keep the two incumbent retail tenants – Brewed and Bottled and Sgt. Peppers Hot Sauces, Etc. – involved, even if it meant shifting them to the quieter end of the plaza to accommodate Gallo's second-floor banquet room.

After considering the option of moving into these smaller spaces, Brewed and Bottled founder Christopher Budde, and his father-in-law, Sgt. Peppers owner Neil Garfinkel, decided a move to 442 Center St. – just 250 feet away, on the other side of Brickyard BBQ & Pub – would be more cost-effective and accommodating.

"We were a square peg in a round hole," said Garfinkel, who has sold hot sauces and other specialty products at 402 Center St. since 2014. "We were physically unable to fit – [Gallo] still wanted us to be there."

"It's a little larger space up the street," said Budde, who has run the bottle shop/beer cafe hybrid for three years, "and we'll be able to have a beer garden in the backyard. It will be more private, with trees and plants rather than the concrete [patio at 402]."

The two businesses will close temporarily to make the move, with both estimating two to three months for the transition.

Budde said to expect more snack-and-drink collaboration between Brewed and Bottled and Sgt. Peppers, and that he's excited for the prospect of a third complementary retail tenant – soon to be announced for the center unit – at 442 Center. Another potential benefit from the move is the redevelopment of the Frontier House, a historic landmark mere feet to the east.

Budde and Garfinkel said they don't harbor ill will toward Gallo, as the business has been transparent and patient about its project. Hibbard, who runs Gallo with his stepfather Albert Paonessa, will look to attract two retail tenants to replace the departing businesses.

Former Center Cut is transformed

The 402 Center St. project – whose complementary parts include an outdoor space dedicated to public art, a quick-service pizza platform called Gallo Pronto (moving from 800 Center St.) and a 100-seat banquet room – isn't the only endeavor for Hibbard.

At 453 Center St., the former Center Cut – which has laid vacant since July – will become Gather by Gallo (stylized as "gather. by Gallo,") a standard American restaurant featuring steaks, seafood, burgers and salads, with a significant focus on wine, Hibbard said.

Essentially a turnkey operation, Gather by Gallo is expected to open in February, aiming to attract a demographic from roughly the late 30s to 60s. "It's a great opportunity for us," Hibbard said. "It kind of fell into our lap."

[Related: 2017 restaurant review of Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen]

Future of 800 Center St.

In addition to the Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen moving to 402 Center St. and Gather by Gallo taking over 453 Center St., Hibbard will transform 800 Center St. – the original Gallo spot – into a Mexican restaurant. Hibbard said more details would be available in the future.

"The original goal was to have five Gallo concepts around this area," said Hibbard, 37. "It's only been four years, and we'll be at three."

Email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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