Cushnoc Brewing Co. owners Amber Hynes, in front from left, Chris Geerlings (holding daughter Henri Geerlings), James Bass; and, in back, Tobias Parkhurst and Casey Hynes stand among the company’s brewing tanks Saturday at the Cushnoc Brewing Co. Annex in Augusta. The company plans to open a new location in Waterville. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

WATERVILLE — A popular Augusta brewery is the latest to hop on the fast-expanding culinary scene in downtown Waterville, as its owners get ready to open a restaurant and bar this fall on the ground floor of the Colby College-owned residence hall at 150 Main St.

Cushnoc Brewing Co., which has three locations in Augusta, is excited to bring Cushnoc Cantina to the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons to complement food and drink offerings already downtown, according to Tobias Parkhurst, a co-founder and one of five partners in Cushnoc.

Cushnoc Cantina will seat about 80 people and have a full kitchen and bar offering beer, tequilas, mezcals and cocktails. Menu items will include tacos and other fare, Parkhurst said, with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to explore some things that maybe don’t fit into our downtown Augusta restaurant and also be able to provide some options that are complementary,” Parkhurst said Friday.

He emphasized that the goal is not to take away from existing businesses and what they offer. For instance, Cushnoc is known for its excellent pizza, but will not serve pizza at the new location because Waterville already has many options for that, according to Parkhurst.

“We want to offer people a high-quality experience,” he said. “We want to be complementary and not competitive.”

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Cushnoc will lease a little more than 3,000 square feet of the ground floor from Colby, which also leases adjacent space on either side to Camden National Bank and Oliver & Friends Bookshop. About 200 Colby juniors and seniors, as well as faculty and staff, occupy the upper floors.

While the space at the location is not quite large enough to brew beer, lots of beer options will be featured. Colby and Cushnoc issued a news release announcing the new venture.

Cushnoc Brewing Co. of Augusta, whose products include a hopped seltzer, above, as well as an assortment of beer styles, is planning to open a restaurant and bar on Main Street in Waterville in a building that also houses a Colby College residence hall. Photo by Todd Dionne

“While the new Waterville location will include some of the brewery’s signature beers, it will also be developing and testing new beers before they go to market,” the news release said. “Additionally, the menu will lean toward a taqueria with an emphasis on offering central Maine diners a different take on traditional Mexican tacos.”

Cushnoc also hopes to partner with some Waterville restaurants and bars to develop special beers for them. Parkhurst said a priority for Cushnoc is to brew beers that are nuanced but accessible to customers.

Launched in 2018, Cushnoc has three locations in Augusta, including a restaurant, annex and tasting room for private events.

Brian Clark, Colby’s vice president of planning and strategy, said Friday that Colby is thrilled to welcome Cushnoc, as it is known as a top-flight brewery that is committed to supporting neighboring businesses. It’s presence adds to the narrative that Waterville is a good place to live, work and recreate, and it is a great fit for the city, according to Clark.

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“For Waterville to have a great brewery is another reason to come to Waterville,” he said.

Colby will lay the physical groundwork for the business, including laying concrete pads and piping, and Cushnoc is designing the interior and will orchestrate the construction. Clark said Colby purposely left the space wide open to allow for whatever business occupying it to build it to their specifications and needs.

Just across Main Street, Portland Pie Co. and the Robin’s Nest lease the ground floor of 173 Main from Colby, which also built and owns the Lockwood Hotel farther south on the street. On the ground floor of the hotel is the restaurant, Front & Main, and across the street, Greene Block & Studios. Colby also built the new Paul J. Schupf Art Center downtown.

The college has invested many million of dollars in not only downtown Waterville, but also on campus, since Colby President David A. Greene came on the scene 10 years ago and headed up an effort to help the city identify its needs and vision for the future.

Greene hosted meetings with business leaders, city officials, arts advocates and others who identified strengthening existing businesses, expanding art offerings and filling vacant spaces in downtown as priorities. Since then, the city has experienced a lot of growth, particularly in the downtown, where new restaurants and retail businesses have opened and expanded and the arts have become more visible and active than ever before in the heart of the city. Having more people living and working downtown also was identified as a priority in Greene’s initial meetings.

As Colby built, renovated and improved buildings downtown, others followed suit, including businessman and real estate developer Bill Mitchell, who bought buildings on Common Street and College Avenue and developed them for offices, a restaurant and other uses.

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Along with business growth, there have been concerted efforts to increase housing opportunities, including plans for Head of Falls Village, a housing complex planned for the corner of Temple and Front streets. The northernmost mill building in the Hathaway complex off Water Street is being developed for housing, and other, smaller housing plans are in the works for upper stories in downtown buildings.

Parkhurst and his family know Waterville well. He grew up in Fairfield and his mother, Janet, owned a stained glass business in the city for many years. His father, Richard, owned the Railroad Square complex, as well as Oakes & Parkhurst Glass in Winslow.

Parkhurst said a lot of people he went to high school with, and others, now work in the restaurant business in Waterville.

“Waterville is like a very familiar and friendly place for me,” he said. “I like it up there and go there a lot.”

He said he doesn’t have an exact opening date to share and is not sure exactly how many people will be hired to work at Cushnoc Cantina.

“We currently employ over 50 people,” he said. “We obviously expect that to grow substantially.”

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