Houlton bistro aims to be the hot new place to hang out

3 weeks ago

HOULTON, Maine — Two local restaurateurs are set to turn around a downtown space that for several years has had a spotty history of restaurants and bars coming and going after a few months.

“Because of what has been in and out of here, we are being held to a very high standard,” Shyann Miller said. “We want to make this Houlton’s new spot.”

There are some pretty big expectations for their new bistro at 28 Market Square, opening in mid-April, she said.  

Miller walks through the historic downtown square building pointing to planned nooks, crannies. A lush seating area with couch and comfy chairs is already placed in front of the working fireplace. 

Along with business partner Shelby Fitzpatrick, they have transformed the Market Square space into what will soon become the Different Point of Brew Bistro offering their already famous specialty energy tea drinks and coffees along with a full bistro menu.

The two women, who have worked in restaurants most of their lives, decided the space was so beautiful and had so much to offer, they had to open their bistro in that location. But it was all boxed in with walls and a bar in front of the fireplace. 

So one of the first things the two women did was take out interior walls and rebuild the bar toward the back of the space. Working round the clock with their mobile specialty drink trailer and renovating the space on their own, the two said they are mostly at the tired stage. 

They changed the lighting, painted the walls in black and a near Robin’s egg blue with a splash of teal that looks pretty spectacular when the sun streams through the near floor to ceiling art deco windows.

Their vision for the place is what many more urban areas offer with spaces to work, hang out with friends or even kick back and relax for a bit. They want it to succeed where previous businesses have failed.

Most recently the Rise and Shine restaurant left the Market Square space after about six months. Before that the Handlebar Saloon departed after its six-month lease was not renewed in 2023. 

Lori and Ernie Spaulding opened the Handlebar Saloon in late 2022. It was the first biker-themed restaurant and bar in the area. Almost from the start controversy and rumors spread about the busy bar’s clientele. The town did not close down the saloon, according to former Houlton town manager Marian Anderson and Police Chief Tim DeLuca who both said at the time they did not know what happened. 

The new bistro is not just about the coffee, it’s about the experience they are creating. 

“We want it to be a full experience here. We don’t want people to come in and get their coffee and leave,” said Miller. “We want them to come and hang out.”

The Different Point of Brew mobile trailer, currently parked at the Keybank parking lot in Houlton is very popular and known throughout the County. 

“We have people come all the way from Fort Fairfield for a drink,” Miller said. 

They decided to not open the bistro until the week after the April 8 eclipse, but they will operate out of their new kitchen and sell items from their mobile trailer. 

On the menu will be bistro style foods and lighter fare like soups, salads, sandwiches and muffins. Rounding it out is their famed coffees, teas and energy teas, like the really yummy sugar free cotton candy, strawberry and cream lotus energy infused Easter treat, Peep it Real.

They plan to expand in baby steps and eventually be open for dinner with a full-service bar. Fitzpatrick’s brother Dustin Fitzpatrick is their other business partner and they both say he is their voice of reason.

“Once we get the staff, once we get our feet under us, we’re going to expand to dinner,” Fitzpatrick said. “Then we will expand to happy hour, then full bar.” 

They also cater events and are offering their space as a pop-up for other businesses. 

Initially, the bistro will be open Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., but they hope to expand that once dinner is added to their offerings.