WINSLOW — A prominent commercial area along Bay Street has a new drive-through restaurant whose owners say they’ll be there for the long haul.

The Red Barn, a family-owned restaurant in Augusta, expanded with a small drive-through this week. A poll revealed its customers wanted a drive-through in town.

“Hopefully it’s a shot in the arm for this part of Winslow,” said Larry Stewart, the 50 Bay St. restaurant’s business manager.

Meanwhile, though, multimillion-dollar development plans for a business plaza next door to The Red Barn are withering. Priority Group has been attempting to renovate the empty mini-mall and attract commercial tenants, but after years of postponements the company says the project is on hold indefinitely.

Blame the national economic unrest, said James Howard, president of the Topsham-based real estate firm.

“Unfortunately, due to the economy as it is, all of the customers we have lined up have postponed any development in Winslow, so we currently do not have any customers for the property,” Howard said. “What we’re finding is they are saying, under the current business conditions they’re doing fine, but they’re just not comfortable in this economy to expand beyond that.”

The competing episodes appear to illustrate the difficulty businesses face in expanding. But Town Manager Michael Heavener thinks the plaza at 46 Bay St. will one day attract more commercial development, even if the plans have languished.

“It certainly has a lot of potential,” he said.

Howard’s firm has planned a new 6,000-square-foot building in the mini-mall’s place, with two distinct retail spaces. The project has been estimated to cost $3.5 million. Howard won’t disclose potential customers, but a Tim Hortons restaurant has been floated as a possibility in years past.

Across the street, Jeannine Hendsbee, owner of the Lobster Trap & Steakhouse, said the area still has a lot of customer traffic, though business has been down during the recession.

“But I’m not complaining at all,” Hendsbee said.

She said it would be helpful if more businesses arrived, such as those planned for the 46 Bay St. plaza. “It’d be nice to build up that area,” she said.

Howard said he’s surprised development plans for the plaza have languished for about two and a half years.

“We deal with businesses all over the state,” Howard said. “A lot of customers in this economy, they’re surviving and they really don’t see a reason to take on additional expansion risks until the economy gets better.”

Even The Red Barn’s expansion to Winslow is modest: The drive-through occupies a 10-foot by 30-foot building that’s seen multiple food tenants in recent years. A car wash and Budget Truck Rental are behind the restaurant, and all share a parking lot. The Winslow Red Barn has four full-time employees.

“The space is tight and challenging,” said Shane Benedict, the manager in Winslow. “But it’s going to be fast service.”

The Red Barn, which will serve chicken and french fries at its Winslow location, is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and plans a grand opening Nov. 11. The company is leasing the building for two years from Ed Oliver, who owns the property.

The Red Barn on U.S. Route 201 in Augusta has been in operation since 1977 and serves chicken and seafood. It’s run by the Benedict family, including owner Laura Benedict and brothers Peter and Ronnie.

“What makes this work is we’re a known product,” Stewart said. “We’re not reinventing the wheel.”

Stewart and Benedict also point to the restaurant’s charitable causes. This month, for example, all tips received are going to the Fairfield Pet Food Pantry.

They said Winslow was chosen by Red Barn customers through a Facebook poll conducted a few months ago.

“We listened to our customers,” Stewart said.

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

[email protected]


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