Home Sculptor News Insider Notebook: Restaurant Copper Branch opens at Canal Plaza’s ‘sculpture’ building

Insider Notebook: Restaurant Copper Branch opens at Canal Plaza’s ‘sculpture’ building


Montreal-based Copper Branch, a vegetarian restuarant, opened Wednesay in the glass oval building at 1 Canal Plaza.

Chris and Melissa Hooper, of Cape Elizabeth, leased the 1,350-square-foot building last spring from East Brown Cow Management Inc. Mainebiz’s Renee Cordes reported on their plans in April.

Copper Branch is a chain of “fast-casual, 100% plant-based” quick-serve meals, including breakfast, and the downtown Portland branch is the third the business has opened in the U.S. It has more than 65 locations and is the midst of a worldwide expansion, according to a news repelase from the company, which expects to have 100 stores open by the end of 2020.

Tim Soley, president of Brown Cow, said in April that the building “is a sculpture that happens to be a building,” and Copper Branch was the right fit. “I need someone not only open from morning until evening, but friendly and alluring, to help bring the area alive,” he said. “I also needed something really ‘of the moment,’ with the right energy and high volume.”

Peter Harrington, of Maine Commercial Brokers, which represents East Brown Cow, also said in April that despite the fact Copper Branch is a chain, the franchise owners are from the area. “They don’t come across as just a franchise,” he said. “They’re just local people.”

The downtown Portland restaurant will have all-natural menu items, many of which are organic and non-GMO, as well as some gluten-free. It will also serve local beer and cider brewed in Maine. The restaurant will also feature outdoor seating in Canal Plaza in the better months.

“We know Portland area residents share our commitment to delicious, health-focused foods,” said Copper Branch CEO Rio Infantino, who called the Portland building “inconic.” 

The opening comes just before Veganuary, the movement that encourages people to go vegan for the month of January, a way to promote and educate about a vegan lifestyle., the release said. But Infantino said they majority of the restaurant’s customers aren’t vegan, “but rahter those who are looking for a healthier dining alternative by reducing the level of meat and dairy in their diets.” 

Saddleback FAME hearing coming up

The prospective owners of Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley, Arctaris Saddleback Co. LLC will be before the Finance Authority of Maine on Thursday, Dec. 19, for approval of loan guarantees, part of the $6.5 purchase and sale agreement the impact fund has with the Berry Family, of Farmington. They hope to close by Dec. 23, and have the ski area open for the winter 2020-21 ski season.

New Market Tax Credits and fundraising through the community through the Saddleback Mountain Foundation are also part of getting the ski area, which has been closed since 2015, up and running.

It’s not the first time FAME has guaranteed a Saddleback project. In 2009, the finance authority gauranteed a $3 million loan from Skowhegan Savings Bank that the resort, a vital part of the Rangeley Lakes region economy, used to expand to a four-season destination.

10-year plan: Affordable housing group effort

One of the action items in the state’s 10-year strategic action plan released Wednesday is expanding the the production of workforce housing in Maine as a way to increase the supportive infrastructure for workers. The plan suggests everyone, from the state government to employers, can jump on board.

More production of affordable apartments and starter homes is needed to keep pace with demand, the plan points out. The plan says that the federal low-income housing tax credit, “the mainstay program of MaineHousing,” the state’s housing finance authority, only produced 21 apartment units for families in Maine in 2018, with another 381 financed and underway in 2019. It called the number “totally inadequate to the scale of the problem. Maine needs to develop its own tools for workforce housing.”

An underused state tools that can help are the Affordable Housing Tax Increment Financing Program,and the plan suggests that MaineHousing create low interest loan supplements to make it a production program for moderate-income workers seeking starter homes, condominiums or apartments.

The plan also suggests the state create a state tax credit program modeled on the federal one.

And local governments can also reform their land use laws to permit higher-density housing, which costs less to build.

Employers, too, can help by particpating financially in development of housing near worksites. The plan points out that nonprofits are already jumping on board, using as an example the Northern Forest Center’s Millinocket program. The New Hampshire-based nonprofit bought six houses in downtown Millinocket, renovated them, and is renting them out with the intention of selling them in the coming years.

“As is true in other policy areas such as workforce development and education and broadband, partnerships are needed to achieve Maine’s goals,” the plan says.

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