Big J’s Chicken Shack, a casual restaurant at Thompson’s Point in Portland that serves chicken and waffles and Nashville hot chicken, is closing at the end of the month. In May, a new restaurant from Locally Sauced, a 6-year-old food cart that serves burritos, tacos and barbecue, will open in its place.

Jason Loring, whose restaurant group owns Big J’s, said he and his partners were approached by their business partners at Thompson’s Point a few weeks ago with an offer to buy out their lease. They decided to accept, he said, because they are busy with two newer projects in Carrabassett Valley and Windham “so timing is good for everyone.” Loring called it a “mutual and friendly transition.”

Loring said he and his partners will retain the Big J’s brand and are considering opening new chicken shacks in other locations.

Big J’s opened in August 2016 next door to Bissell Brothers Brewing Co. Customers could order their chicken either in the restaurant or through a pass-through window in the brewery’s tap room.

Chris Thompson, developer of Thompson’s Point, said Big J’s was “a decent performer,” but “everyone involved” felt it was time for a change.

“Sometimes things can be reasonably good, and it can be the right time for a transition in a different direction,” he said.

The International Cryptozoology Museum, which occupies part of the space, isn’t going anywhere, Thompson said.

Both Loring and Thompson noted that Loring’s restaurant group had been focused on new projects in recent months, including Hunker Down, a comfort food restaurant that opened in November at the base of the Sugarloaf ski resort. Hunker Down will also provide the food for Erik’s Church, a new country music venue opening soon in Windham.

Rhum, a tiki bar that Loring and his partners owned in the Old Port, closed in January after months of struggling.

Thompson said the owners of Locally Sauced have already worked with Bissell Bros. and are “really enthusiastic about collaborating with our tenants down there.”

For now, the Big J’s space is the only restaurant at Thompson’s Point, Thompson said, but a restaurant is in the works for a soon-to-come hotel. Food trucks and caterers also sell food in the Brick South part of Thompson’s Point during special events and on some other occasions.

Locally Sauced is owned by Charlie and Aimee Ely, who also own Bradbury Mountain Berry Farm, a family farm in Pownal where they grow strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Aimee Ely said that the food cart sells “our take on a mixture of different barbecue styles as well as South American/Mexican food.” That means burritos and tacos in the winter, supplemented by barbecue from a smoker in other seasons, including pulled pork, brisket, and pork and beef ribs.

Ely said they have set up their cart at Bissell Bros. often over the past five years, and the brewery has used berries from their farm in some of its beer.

Ely said Locally Sauced sources as much food from Maine farms as possible. “We like to really let our food speak for itself,” she said.

Ely said she and her husband plan to spend April transitioning into their new Thompson’s Point spot, and the restaurant is scheduled to open in May.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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