Workers stand on ladders outside the new location of Pepper's Landing, Nov. 23, 2021. The restaurant is taking over the same building that once housed the Boomhouse in Old Town. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

A new restaurant is planning to open in downtown Old Town by the spring, filling a prominent riverfront spot that’s been vacant since the Boomhouse restaurant closed nearly a year ago.

The restaurant, Pepper’s Landing, will be the newest location for a small chain of seafood restaurants that go by the same name. 

For downtown Old Town, the restaurant’s opening will mark another vacancy filled in the downtown area, which has gradually attracted more businesses since a devastating fire along Main Street two years ago. For Pepper’s Landing, the Old Town location will mark a return to its roots.

Pepper’s Landing currently has two locations, in Brunswick and Rochester, New Hampshire, and the two owners run a third restaurant in Saco called Sea Salt. But the Old Town location will be different because the city is home for both the chain’s late namesake and one of its co-owners, Morey Highbarger. 

The restaurant is named for Ralph “Pepper” Martin, who was born in 1914 and grew up in Old Town. He was a Maine Guide from 1930 until 1980 and founded the Old Town water ski club. Highbarger is Martin’s grandson and established the chain in his honor, according to the restaurants’ website. 

Pepper’s favorite food was smoked fish, and because of his deep connection with the outdoors, the restaurant’s menu will feature a combination of fresh seafood and other familiar favorites like burgers, Highbarger and co-owner Ian Miller said.

Highbarger and Miller said they hope the Old Town location becomes a community focal point. 

Old Town Economic Development Director E.J. Roach said the city is excited to add another restaurant to its downtown and hopes Pepper’s Landing will quickly become a favorite. 

“Reopening a restaurant at the site of the former Boomhouse has been certainly a top priority in efforts to bring more activity to the riverfront,” Roach said. “A quick review of the menu at their other locations indicates they will become a very popular and much-needed dining option in the area.”

Redevelopment of the city’s downtown has been a priority for the city’s government since the last devastating fire that ripped through the center of town two years ago. While there’s still a hole in the section of downtown that the fire hit, a handful of new businesses have come to the area since then, gradually adding some vitality.

The location where Pepper’s Landing plans to open, which overlooks the Penobscot River and the Milford Dam, has been empty since last December, when the Boomhouse closed. Crews were at the site earlier this week working on the outside of the building. 

Pepper’s Landing won’t be the only new restaurant in downtown Old Town.

The second location of Brewer-based eatery Kosta’s is set to open just after Thanksgiving on the other end of downtown. Kosta’s also has a deep connection to Old Town, as it first opened more than 15 years ago in the same downtown location to which it’s returning.

Additionally, Cutting Edge salon recently moved into a new building on that stretch of Main Street. The salon was one of the businesses housed in one of the buildings that caught fire two years ago. 

Pepper’s Landing is also opening a location in Westbrook in May 2022. The Old Town location is slated to be open by April. 

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...