THOMASTON — When Martin Farrell bought the building at 173 Main St. in Thomaston in 2014 it was initially to house the offices of his healthcare consulting business. Though the historic building started its life as Delano's Saloon, said Farrell, prior to his purchase it spent about 150 years as a bank under various names.
Now, Farrell has decided to take the building back to its roots, officially opening The Block Saloon on Tuesday, June 26.
The name for the establishment was inspired by a friend of Farrell’s who grew up locally, he told Farrell at the time he purchased the building that it was historically known as "The Block" by many locals.
Farrell said his business travels take him to "larger markets" including Miami, Scottsdale and Colorado Springs where he often enjoys cocktail bars that are not "full-blown restaurants."
With the original banking counter re-surfaced and serving quite naturally as the bar, it's no surprise when Farrell recounts a day when he first purchased the building.
"Someone just walked in and asked if he could order a drink," Farrell said with a laugh.
Since then, conversations about opening a bar have ensued.
"I like the idea of being able to get a drink before of after dinner but not having to commit to a full meal," Farrell said. While The Block Saloon will offer a small, tapas style menu, food will not be the primary focus of the 33-seat establishment.
Farrell said he feels the concept is unique to the Midcoast area, and through talking to bartenders he has come to know in his travels, he has realized that it's possible to create a satisfying menu without a fully-equipped kitchen.
He recalled a conversation with a bartender at "Stir" in Colorado Springs— an establishment that morphs from coffee shop to cocktail bar. He was able to glean some excellent menu tips and further inspiration for his concept.
Back in Maine following the aforementioned visit to Colorado, "the real planning began in January, 2018," he said.
While The Block Saloon has a full-time head bartender, Farrell said that one of the unique aspects of his concept is that throughout the summer bartenders from his favorite far flung haunts have agreed to visit and guest bartend at his new cocktail bar.
"They've all agreed to come out for a few weeks this summer," he said. He spoke of a friend who bartends in West Palm Beach and has a specific passion for putting new twists on classic cocktails.
"He's coming out [to Maine] in July," Farrell said.
He said he envisions The Block Saloon having a specialty cocktail list as well as a curated selection of spirits. He said he plans to work with each bartender to facilitate providing the ingredients and liquors they want to work with.
"I want to have a number of local things and showcase locally made products," he said.
Farrell said that finding staff has been challenging, and that the bar manager, David Smith who will lead his team is relocating from Phoenix, Arizona. Farrell added that he ran ads in the Maine market for weeks before expanding his search.
"I think [Smith] is going to be really good at what he does. He's worked in some of the busiest cocktail establishments in New York," Farrell said."It's hard to find people in Maine."
Farrell said he will employ two cooks and a general manager in addition to service staff. He said he has been excited by the enthusiasm and the demographic information gleaned from The Block Saloon's recently launched social media page.
With assistance from industry friends, the first time restaurateur said he is feeling good about the business, he is also excited to stay open year-round, proving steady jobs for his employees and a place for the community to go out for a cocktail and small plates.
"I want everyone to feel comfortable here, not just one demographic," he said.
For Farrell, the time is right for a number of reasons. While he will maintain his healthcare consulting business as his primary career, he said he has watched steady attrition from Thomaston's business community over the past three years. He cited the closure of both a downtown pub and coffee shop, but said he sees signs of vibrancy returning.
"I like Thomaston quite a lot, I think it's a great little community. I am excited to be able to give [The Block Saloon] to the community," he said. "I think we can be a part of bringing the town back."
Jenna Lookner can be reached at email@example.com