FAIRFIELD — The return of the old Gerald Hotel to its former grandeur has taken a new turn with the opening of a beer, food and wine shop that seeks to carve out its own niche in Maine’s local food movement.

The Gerald is a hotel where, Fairfield history buff Mark McPheters has said, Boston’s upper crust would journey by train to spend some time in the country, and where silent-film stars stayed while making some of their films.

A $6.5 million renovation project has restored the building to much of its original appearance while adding modern conveniences.

In the retail space that is part of the venerable building, three friends united by their shared passion for food and farming will offer 350 wines and 150 beers while educating consumers about where the products come from.

David Gulak, the founding manager of Barrel’s Market in Waterville; Josh Sullivan, a part-time English professor who has worked on local farms; and Nate McNab, an Alabama native and aspiring chocolatier who comes to the venture from Uncle Dean’s Good Groceries in Waterville, are the trio behind Meridian’s, which opened Thursday at 151 Upper Main St.

“We call it ‘glocal,'” said Gulak, 33. “It’s the same concept as the local food movement — identifying farmers and producers and where food comes from, but on a larger scale. It’s global and local.”

The store, which occupies the only retail space in the remodeled hotel, shares the building with a 28-unit apartment complex for income-eligible people over the age of 55. It’s one of the final pieces in the revitalization of the hotel, which dates to 1900 and was bought by the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program in 2012.

The hotel was named for Amos F. Gerald, who built the hotel in 1900. Until tenants started moving in last November, nobody had lived there for more than 75 years. Before being purchased by KVCAP in 2012, its most recent use was as home to Northern Mattress and Furniture Gallery, which closed in 2006.

The concept behind Meridian’s is that of terroir, a word that is usually applied to wine to describe the effect of climate and geography on the characteristics of the grapes — but it also plays off the local food movement, seeking to connect consumers with knowledge of who grew their food, where and how it was grown.

“There’s a lot going on in the local food movement, especially with finding out where everything comes from. But with wine and beer, there’s no one really offering that,” said McNab, 27.

Wine and craft beer will be the emphasis of the store, but the trio also are working with about 25 local producers and farms to offer picnic-friendly food that pairs well with wine and beer. They include Smith’s Smoke House and Thirty Acre Farm in Whitefield, where Sullivan worked as an apprentice.

There’s also an educational component to what they’re doing. The wine selection, organized by region and marked with colorful maps and a large graph depicting the tastes and aromas found in wine, greets customers as they enter the store.

“I think people think it’s kind of funny that we’re doing this. They ask why we’re doing something that could potentially be labeled elitist or expensive, but it isn’t,” Gulak said.

Wine ranges in price from $8 to $15 bottle on average, although some bottles cost up to $45, and the store also will make special orders upon request.

“We really see it as a benefit for the entire town. It’s the type of business that we don’t really have much of in the Waterville and Fairfield area, and we thought it would be ideal,” said Suzanne Walsh, chief operating officer for KVCAP.

Meridian’s location in downtown Fairfield was also important to Gulak, who is originally from Harpswell and now lives a short walk from the store.

“Fairfield really is the crossroads of Maine. It still has a lot of old buildings, which gives it that old feel and most importantly, people still live downtown. The combination of the town and the people working there, the industrial landscape, history and the quaint downtown were all important,” he said.

Inside, the whitewashed ceiling retains the original early 20th-century filigree pattern.

Chuck Lakin, a Waterville woodworker who also has created interiors for Common Street Arts in Waterville, Railroad Square Cinema and Barrel’s, designed the shelving and tables. He also created two live-edge counters, one at the store’s entrance and another that will serve as a tasting bar, out of local pine trees to create the rustic Maine aesthetic of the store.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]


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