GARDINER — Fernando Jantorno Stelser doesn’t do things slowly.

He talks fast and he moves fast, because as the owner of six Domino’s restaurants he has a lot to do.

“Maybe I slow down when I’m sleeping,” he said Friday.

Right now, he’s working on his newest restaurant at 192 Water St., the former Maine Trust & Banking building.

Stelser, 38, is planning for a June opening, if all goes smoothly. Last Wednesday, he was in Gardiner overseeing the delivery and installation of his pizza ovens. By afternoon, he had already dropped off payroll at his Augusta restaurant, and stayed long enough to make some pizza before heading south.

Work at the restaurant started in earnest in March, and it’s expected to wrap up at the end of June when Domino’s is expected to open.


And when it does, it will be unlike any other Domino’s restaurant because Stelser and Haldria Vale Jantorno, his wife and partner, are keeping many of the historic details of the former bank building intact, including the trim and the vault, which will be dining space for customers. They are also planning a small function room along the front of the restaurant. And if the Historic Preservation Commission agrees, they will have a take-out window where the ATM used to be.

“It’s easier than you think,” he said. “People are afraid of historic towns.”

“One of the things I was struck by is the juxtaposition of the modern business and finishes in a historic building,” which are complementary, Gardiner Maine Street Executive Director Patrick Wright said.

Like most other Domino’s owners, Stelser started as a driver. In 2002, he drove for a restaurant in Acton, Massachusetts, before returning to his native Brazil to complete college. When he was ready to return to the United States in 2004, he started managing his first Domino’s in Kittery. Stelser and his wife bought his first restaurant in Bath in 2009 and started adding from there. In addition to Gardiner and Augusta, they own restaurants in Auburn, Brunswick and Freeport, which was the most recent addition before Gardiner and is also in a historic building.

What attracted him to Domino’s was the pace and the dynamic environment when he was a driver, and it stuck.

“Every day is a different day,” he said. “Different customers and different routes.”


What attracted him to Gardiner was the city’s location in relation to his other restaurants. He had been looking in the area for a couple of years before focusing on the former bank building, which they bought last year.

Domino’s is a franchise operation putting down roots in a city that has well-established pizza restaurants.

Wright, who in addition to his Gardiner Main Street duties is also Gardiner’s economic development coordinator, said he’s heard some concern about a franchise restaurant moving in.

“Our experience of local franchise owners has been very positive,” he said. They include Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and Craft Beer Cellar.

“Our brand is that we’re welcoming to people and we welcome any business that wants to do business here,” he said.

Stelser, who is already scoping out his next restaurant, said he hopes to have good sales and be a part of the community.


“I really like Maine. It’s a safe state,” he said, and it’s a place he wants to be in and chooses to raise his family in.

“Brazil is very dangerous,” he said. “It’s a paradise here.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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