A pedestrian walks down Main Street in downtown Ellsworth. Credit: Bill Trotter

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The owner of Margaritas Mexican Restaurant of Orono has tentatively purchased a downtown building that was home to another Mexican restaurant for 40 years.

Dave Reesman plans to serve south-of-the-border fare when he finishes renovations and opens his second Margaritas in the former home of The Mex in June. Reesman and Mex owner Lou Harris said they agreed to the sale of 191 Main St. two weeks ago. They will close on it on Feb. 24, Reesman said.

“I can’t wait to get this thing finalized and start work on the building,” Reesman said Friday.

It was important to Harris and the Wardwell family that the building continue as a Mexican restaurant. Bruce Wardwell opened The Mex in 1979, at a time when Mexican restaurants were rare in northern Maine, and ran it successfully until he was seriously injured in a car crash in 2016, said Harris, who is life partner to Wardwell’s daughter, Kaili Ann Wardwell.

Harris and Wardwell closed The Mex in October because the Newport residents had grown tired of the 50-mile commute and wanted to concentrate on running another business they own, Abraham’s Goat Farm & Creamery of Newport.

Harris said they heard from more than a dozen others interested in the property, mostly regional restaurateurs, before closing the deal with Reesman, who said he contacted The Mex’s owners in October and began looking at the property seriously in December.

“We kind of weeded out who we thought would be successful and who was just fishing and we wanted to look at the most responsible person, someone who would carry on like The Mex,” Harris said. “It won’t be the Mex, it will be Margaritas, but they have a great vision for the property. They’re experienced, and they’re really nice people.”

Based in New Hampshire, the Margaritas chain has four storefronts in Maine – Auburn, Augusta, Orono and Portland – and 18 more outlets in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to its website.

The Ellsworth Margaritas will be considerably smaller than the Orono location, but Reesman, who pays a franchise fee for use of the name, menu and other features of the chain, plans to renovate the kitchen and enlarge the bar area, creating more space. He will add outdoor dining, about 30 seats, to the front of the building, where the old entrance will be replaced, he said.

“I think the space is OK,” Reesman said. “It might not need a lot of work. The location itself is fantastic.”

The 39-year-old Bangor resident also owns The Grind House, a coffee, breakfast and sandwich shop, on Central Street in Bangor.