From left, Brian Catapang, Brittany Saliwanchik, Julia Russell and Carmen Harris plan to open a new bar/restaurant in Biddeford later this year. As part of their plan, the will renovate Liberty Park and create a more inviting gateway to the city. DINA MENDROS/JournalTribune

BIDDEFORD — Less than a year ago, Julia Russell and Carmen Harris were visiting a downtown Biddeford restaurant and began talking with bartender Brian Catapang and his co-worker, Brittany Saliwanchik. They discussed the importance of creating and being part of a community and discovered they were philosophically aligned.

That conversation was the starting point when the four to decide to go into business together and open a restaurant in Biddeford, employing their vision of becoming part of and contributing to the existing community.

“We want to promote out community efforts and want to add and give back to the community,” Russell said.

The partners plan to open Magnus on Water, a cocktail bar/restaurant, named for Catholic saint Albertus Magnus, sometime this summer. The restaurant is being named for the Catholic saint who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries “in homage to his progressive ideas on science” and his interest in foraging, Saliwanchik said.

It will be located at 12 Water St., near Main Street, the former home of the gift store La Cava. Russell’s company Tale Wind LLC purchased the building in November.

Three of the four partners are Maine natives, who have lived elsewhere and returned to Maine in recent years. Russell is from neighboring Saco, Catapang from York and Saliwanchik from Bangor. Harris is from Knoxville, Tennessee but says she already feels that she’s a part of the local community.

Both Catapang and Saliwanchik have restaurant experience. While Russell and Harris haven’t worked in a restaurant before, “we’re influenced by our travels and love of food,” Russell said. In addition, she said, the two want to be part of the restaurant industry because they want to improve they way “the food industry treats its workers and its patrons.”

The group didn’t immediately decide to open their restaurant in Biddeford. They did some searching in Portland first, but “we saw so much potential with all the spaces available on Main Street,” Saliwanchik said. “It felt like a place where a business with progressive values could have a positive impact on the community.”

“The energy in Biddeford, it’s young, it’s interesting,” said Russell. “We want to tap into that and help make Biddeford a destination for beverage and food.”

Also, Harris said, “the folks at city Hall have been amazing to work with. They have been the biggest champions (of Biddeford).”

Magnus will feature a small, intimate area for indoor seating as well as a larger exterior space.

Through that exterior space thee partners’ vision of being part of improving their community will extend through and beyond their restaurant. On Tuesday, City Council approved entering a lease-purchase agreement for Tale Wind to purchase 2 Water St., known as Liberty Park from the city. The LLC will pay $100,000 over 20 years for the lot and will pay to redesign and maintain new landscaping for the park. That area will be connected to new green space the city will create and maintain when the intersection and Main, Water and Hill streets is reconfigured by the Maine Department of Transportation later this year.

“This is a perfect example of how to do a public-private partnership,” Harris said, adding that it fits in with the partners’ philosophy that “if you do right by the community, the community will do right by you.”

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be reached at 780-9014 or [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: