PORTLAND — A Bangor physician and his son are opening a b.good burger franchise in the Old Port spot formerly occupied by 15 Exchange Grille and Walter’s.
The new restaurant, located at 15 Exchange St., is expected to open in June and will serve fast food-style burgers and fries made with local ingredients – or, as the chain’s motto puts it, “food made by people, not factories.”
The beef, chicken and turkey burgers will be made with meat from local farms, and the salad ingredients will change with the seasons, depending on what local farmers have available.
Dr. Ben Zolper and his son, Bill, plan to open two other b.good restaurants in southern Maine as well, but those locations have not yet been determined.
Bill Zolper is a former basketball player for the University of Southern Maine who graduated in 2011 with a business degree. He discovered the b.good chain in Boston and then asked his father to go into business with him.
The Boston-based chain was founded in 2004 by Anthony Ackil and Jon Olinto, and today has nine corporate-owned restaurants in the Boston area. A franchise location opened in Shrewsbury, Mass. in March.
The company has signed franchise agreements for an additional 23 locations in five states and has plans for 12 more corporate locations.
Olinto, who is a graduate of Colby College in Waterville, said all the beef for b.good restaurants is sourced from Pineland Farms, which is based in New Gloucester.
“Every burger they grind every morning will be from Pineland,” he said. “B.good has been working with Pineland for about three years, and the relationship is awesome. Actually, I’m going up to Presque Isle on Tuesday to go up to their biggest farm in Fort Fairfield.”
All of the Portland restaurant’s cheeses will also come from Pineland, Olinto said.
Olinto said they haven’t yet selected a Maine farm to provide the restaurant with fruits and vegetables for its seasonal shakes (think blueberry shakes in July and August), salads, burger toppings and side veggies.
“In the next month or so, we’ll start reaching out and we’ll find a farm that we think is great that can handle our volume, that understands what we need and can meet our demands, and then we’ll get a relationship going,” Olinto said. “We’ll see if they can distribute direct to our Portland location, and if not, we’ll get creative. In Boston, we actually have to go to farmers markets and meet our farmers there, and we basically unload their truck onto our truck.”
What about the fries, one of the mainstays of fast food? Will they be made with Maine potatoes?
Olinto said one of the things he’ll be doing in Fort Fairfield on Tuesday is checking out Pineland Farms’ potatoes. Pineland only sells cut fries, but Olinto said “we’ll always cut our own.”
“I feel like it would almost be a slap in the face to not use Maine potatoes when we’re in Portland,” he said.
Olinto said he loves the character of the space on Exchange Street, which has hardwood floors, brick walls and a ceiling with great details. “It’s got so much character,” he said. “You know, fast food is all about cookie cutter, homogenous experience, and this is going to be reallly cool.”
While the Zolpers’ other two b.good locations are yet to be determined, Olinto said he’d like to see another restaurant in the Portland area, maybe in South Portland.
“I’ve always wanted to open a b.good in Maine,” Olinto said. “And Portland is just a great town. I’m personally really, really excited that we get to do this.”