KENNEBUNK — When Garden Street Market closed its doors in 2010, Kennebunk lost a vital piece of the community. The grocery store that sat in the center of town, just a few steps off Main Street, was more than a location to purchase provisions for the week — it was a meeting place. Locals and summer residents alike were assured of running into someone they knew as they rolled their shopping carts up and down the tight aisles.
It is that sense of community that the new owners of the building hope to recapture when they reopen the doors as “Garden Street Bowl” later this year. The venture will feature a full service, fine dining restaurant along with 10 pin bowling lanes and a game room.
“We are trying to bring the Garden Street Market community back together in our own way,” said Jake Peterson, who grew up in Kennebunk.
Peterson and longtime friends — and now business partners — Dan Hardy and John Nelson had been thinking about a new venture for some time before purchasing the Garden Street property.
“It was a long process. The development and idea came as we talked about fun ideas for restaurants and what we could do,” said Peterson. “We started talking about Garden Street Market and how long it had been empty.”
As the men talked, the bowling center/restaurant/game room idea took shape.
“Garden Street is a great location for the local community, the downtown residents and surrounding towns and then you can add in tourists,” said Peterson. “We’re opening this space for us, really, for our community. We want local kids to work here, everyone to celebrate birthdays here.”
The three partners have worked together for about 15 years and according to Peterson, have a “really good rapport.” They also enjoy bowling.
“For John, Dan and I, that’s our outing — it’s a great way to share time with friends,” said Peterson. “The model for Garden Street Bowl is a hybrid boutique bowling, food and beverage center. It’s become something that is popular and sought after. The community of these types of venues have really helped us out; there’s a great camaraderie among them. We want to bring the model to Kennebunk in a way that is right for Kennebunk.”
Peterson, who at present is part of Rich and Tina Lemoine’s team at the Village Tavern in West Kennebunk, has worked in the area, as well as California and the Caribbean, exploring the culinary world.
“I owe a lot to Scott Lee at Bandaloop in Kennebunkport,” said Peterson, who will manage the restaurant aspect of Garden Street Bowl. “I’ve learned my skill through work with people like Scott. And Chef Rich Lemoine is so supportive of our efforts — we have his blessing. It’s been such a long road but now it’s becoming real.”
Wells native Dan Hardy will run the bar for the new venture.
“Dan grew up in the industry and has incredible knowledge of all aspects, from craft beers to cocktails,” said Peterson.
John Nelson, originally from Long Island spent his summers in Maine. He now lives locally and has three children. He will lead the bowling/game side of the operation.
“It will be 10 pin bowling with 10 lanes and not your typical bowling alley,” said Peterson. “They’ll be family luxury lanes, classy and in Kennebunk style.”
Nelson said two custom lanes will feature mahogany with strategically placed spotlights highlighting the beauty of the wood.
“These lanes will be the first ones you see,” said Nelson. “We’re bringing in the Great Gatsby Style. You’ll feel like you’ve walked into the 1920s.”
The remaining eight “family” lanes will feature caramel colored wood that has a special luminous surface that allows the lanes to change colors.
“We can make them a deep blue,” said Peterson. “It’s almost like you’re bowling in water.”
The game room side will offer tabletop shuffleboard, skee ball, air hockey tables as well as a few arcade games and a bocce ball court, which Nelson said will have elegant and comfortable seating.
“You’ll feel like you’re playing the game in your living room,” he said.
Overall the men hope their space will be viewed both as a dining and entertainment center and a venue to celebrate special occasions.
“We want people to have fun things to do. This will be a perfect place for birthdays and other events,” said Nelson.
Garden Street Bowl will eventually be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. For the first few months the partners plan to open for dinner only, with lunch hours to follow later.
“We also hope to have bowling leagues but will allow that to direct itself,” said Peterson. “We’re open to see how the community develops that end.”
While the location and size of the building are perfect for what Peterson, Hardy and Nelson have in mind, buying the property took some work, as there were stipulations in place from the previous owners that had to be considered.
“It was a tough property to obtain but working with the town of Kennebunk has been good,” said Peterson. “They offered their experience and have been helpful walking with us through all the ins and outs, including licensing. And the support from the community has been great. Our main goal is to be good business owners and good neighbors. We want to work with other businesses and residents nearby and we’ll keep working to meet every new challenge to get it right. It’s in all our best interest.”
Michael Pardue, Kennebunk’s town manager, believes the new business will add a lot to the community.
“The addition of the Garden Street Bowl will serve to grow the vibrancy of Kennebunk’s downtown. It is the perfect fit to the family-friendly setting Kennebunk offers and enjoys,” said Pardue. “I believe the addition of the Garden Street Bowl will aid in growing our economy as it introduces yet another form of family recreation to the center of town, one which is suitable for people of all ages. Jake Peterson and his team are strongly committed to this project and I am confident their commitment will result in a success we will all enjoy for years to come.”
With construction on schedule, Garden Street Bowl is expected to open before the end of the year.
“Closer to opening we will have a preview night so folks can check us out. Opening in the fall will be better as we’ll really get to serve our local community first,” said Peterson.
Peterson can’t wait to get rolling with the new 40 seat restaurant, which he said will “not offer the usual bowling alley fare.”
“It will be a full restaurant. We will have burgers and pizza, of course, but we will offer full entrees, as well. Eclectic while approachable,” he said. “I’ll be getting creative, trying different stuff, bringing great flavors that are locally sourced as much as possible. I’m going to use everything to its advantage. Quality comes first. I hope to have a full team of chefs and make use of some local bakers.”
Peterson said the business will also offer musical entertainment, eventually.
“We hope to host some small bands and maybe offer trivia nights. Our sound system is great and there is space for a small band set up,” said Peterson. “We’re doing as much as we can to keep the noise contained within the building — we know it’s a neighborhood — and again — we want to be good neighbors. And we’re all local. We’re not going anywhere.”
Paula Brown and Jason Perkins, who own and operate Reigning Cats and Dogs, are Garden Street Bowl’s closest neighbors. They are eager for the new business to open and look forward to working with Peterson, Hardy and Nelson.
“It was hard for us after Garden Street Market went out,” said Perkins. “It has been a real hardship. We lost a lot of revenue. I think Garden Street Bowl is going to bring revitalization to the downtown. It’s a great idea.”
Brown said “the foot traffic alone” when Garden Street Bowl opens will be helpful.
“And I think they’ll be great neighbors,” she said.
“All three are really nice guys,” he said. “It took a lot of guts to take on a project that size. I give them credit for that. We’re glad they’re here.”
According to Peterson, the partners have spent considerable time talking to neighbors and business owners about Garden Street Bowl and the need to have a long vacant building up and running again. The venture will also significantly contribute to Kennebunk’s economy, as Peterson estimates his business will have approximately 40 employees when it is “up and running.”
“We want to bring it back for everyone,” he said. “More foot traffic will be good for everyone — raise all boats. We are very fortunate to be able to open a business here. We live in an amazing town and want everyone to stop and enjoy. We call it “crotux,” live in the moment, appreciate and have fun.”
Peterson said he and his partners are working hard on making everything as smooth as possible.
“Our background is in creating experience and that’s what we will be focused on,” he said. “Our main goal for Garden Street Bowl is to create a gathering place again — just like Garden Street Market was — a place where you meet your neighbors.”