CARIBOU, Maine — Bechard’s Grille has been offering homemade pizza, burgers, appetizers, sides, subs, and poutine at the Skyway Plaza in Caribou for more than two months.
But the husband and wife team of Sandy and Richard Bechard have been in the restaurant business for half a decade. They moved back to Richard’s hometown of Caribou.
“Caribou is where I’m from,” said Richard, “so I’m going back to my roots, as they say.
He added that the restaurant offers “a little bit of everything,” including a variety of specialty pizzas. He said that a couple of their original pizza sauces have “really caught on” in Caribou.
Sandy said that customers particularly seem to like the zesty Italian marinara sauce.
All in all, the restaurant has two full-time and six part-time employees on staff. The Bechards are at the restaurant before it opens at 10:30 a.m. and after it closes at 7 p.m.
Duties are split between the two, with Richard working as the head cook and kitchen manager, preparing most of the food, and Sandy taking care of customers in the restaurant, making sure the salad bar is fresh, working with wait staff, and also taking care of all the restaurant’s paperwork.
Bechard’s Grille offers daily specials, some of which aren’t on the regular menu, and while the Bechards said in the future they may expand its size, but they’re happy with the business at the moment.
“It’s been amazing,” said Sandy. “Everyone has welcomed us with open arms here. We haven’t had much negative feedback, a lot of it is positive and we’re happy with that.”
In addition to the myriad of meals offered, Bechard’s Grille also has a full bar featuring beer, wine and spirits.
Sandy said her favorite dish is the Philly steak and cheese, which includes fried onions, mushrooms, mixed peppers, mayonnaise and provolone cheese.
“Those are a big hit,” she said, “and it’s not comparable to anything else you can get around here. The pizza is really amazing too. It’s not greasy, it’s always well cooked, and you can load it with toppings.”
She added that, outside of Grammy’s Country Inn in Linneus, “nobody else can touch our portion sizes.”
“You really get a lot of food for the price,” said Sandy. “So if there’s a single mom with two or three kids who is working full time, she can come in here with her kids and get a meal and feed them for under $20.”
She said that while going out to eat is really a luxury, they wanted to make the restaurant as cost effective as they could while still being able to pay their own bills.
Richard said his favorite dish is a double cheeseburger with a side of poutine, adding that he uses fresh ground beef every day and that they do not serve any frozen products to customers.
While they officially opened on March 6, the Bechards have owned the Skyway Plaza space since September 2018 and worked steadily to transform it into a local eatery.
Sandy said she and Richard made a point to support smaller, local businesses while renovating the space.
“We’re local and we believe in supporting local businesses,” she said. “So all of our electric, plumbing, and renovation work was done with other local businesses. Our restaurant can’t compete with McDonald’s or the other chains, just like small electric and plumbing companies can’t compete with big corporations. We’re small and like to keep it small by supporting other small businesses.”
Before becoming a restaurateur, Richard worked at Columbia Forest Products in Presque Isle, and also at numerous local eateries in the area. This experience in the restaurant business shaped the couple’s eventual decision to open up their own eatery.
“We always wanted to work for ourselves,” said Bechard. “There are long days, and some are better than others, but we like it. Being able to provide jobs for the community is a good thing.”
“Small communities like this were built one small business at a time,” he continued. “And I believe Caribou is on the uptick of rebuilding itself. We have a new school coming in, new businesses, and it’s great to be a part of this community.”