BELFAST—The sound of construction can be heard in and around the two buildings that comprise Marshall Wharf Brewing and Three Tides these days.
It’s business as usual for builder Daniel Waldron, co-owner of Whitecap Builders; but he isn’t just working on the buildings. He and his wife, Kathleen Dunckel, recently purchased the brewery building and property prior to a public auction on January 29. They also purchased the brewery business and Three Tides business.
As a former employee of Three Tides and Marshall Wharf Brewing, Waldron couldn’t get the brewery off his mind. It had abruptly closed in April 2019 after floods over the previous winter had caused severe damage, according to an article in the Bangor Daily News.
“I started seriously considering buying it last June,” said Waldron. As it got closer and closer to the auction, we kept thinking, ‘how can we make this happen?’”
As a builder, Waldron eyed the buildings with a certain perspective that comes with the territory.
“I fell in love with that brewery building when I was working here,” he said. “It was an old grainery and has been standing here on the Belfast waterfront since the late 1800s and the upper levels of the building have never been touched.”
Rising tides, storm surge and climate change made the brewery extremely vulnerable to flooding, a calamity which destroyed a substantial amount of the hard work done by original owners David and Sarah Carlson. According to BDN, a one-two punch in the winter and spring of 2019 in the form of floods wiped out their stainless steel tanks that contained finished beer and then took out more smaller tanks two months later.
To be viable as a brewery in the long run, Waldron said the entire building needs to be jacked up approximately eight feet from the current first floor elevation.
“It’s been there so long it’s sinking,” he said. “Currently, the first floor of the building is 38 inches below the sea wall. We just need to get it jacked up on piers, out of the ocean’s way.”
“We do this every day,” he said, of the construction. “For me, the immediate challenge is getting the brewery and restaurant back up and running again.”
Waldron, who has been in the restaurant business 20 years as a supplement to his construction work, served as a Three Tides bartender. Dunckel is a professor at Unity College. With three children, the couple is spending every available moment to bring back the beloved brewery and bar to the way people remember it.
At the time of this interview the couple had a verbal agreement to lease the Three Tides property from the current owner with intent to purchase it in the future.
“The feedback we’ve heard has been so positive and a lot of what we’re hearing is: ‘We miss Three Tides and Marshall Wharf Brewing. We want our place back.’ And we want to give it back to them.”—Kathleen Dunckel
As for Three Tides, Waldron doesn’t need to do anything drastic.
“The kitchen needs some new equipment a potential expansion, but we’re planning on leaving it mostly the way it was,” he said.
The couple said they are working toward a spring re-opening while they work on planning, engineering and a slew of city, state and federal permitting applications for the major rehabilitation of the brewery building.
“We’ve got protections in place for flooding right now,” he said. “We’ll operate out of both spaces, until all the permits are in place and then the brewery will need to shut down again and brew offsite, so we can jack the building up.”
The Belfast community has expressed an outpouring of excitement toward the re-opening.
“David and Sarah were super supportive and the community has been off the hook since we posted the plans on Facebook,” said Waldron. “Other restaurants and brewers, such as Danny McGovern, have also reached out and given us their support.”
Jared Mahrunic, MW’s head brewer, is returning to restart the brewery. One of the biggest questions the couple is getting is: “Will the same beers come back?”
The answer is yes.
“Everything will still be branded Marshall Wharf and all of the beers that people love will be coming back,” said Waldron. “We’re honing in on what Marshall Wharf already does well.”
He said: “We’re not quite sure what capacity we’ll offer food yet It’ll be light fare, tapas to start.”
As for entertainment, Marshall Wharf Brewing has always served as an anchor for the major Belfast music festivals and harbor parties.
“I think that’s definitely on the horizon,” said Dunckel.
“We’ve already been contacted by bands and my take on that is that it’ll be a soft, subtle start as we get going,” said Waldron. “But the music side has always been a big thing for us. If we revive anything for now, it’ll probably be the Marshall Wharf beer and mussel festival in October, depending on how much beer we have available then.”
Basically, Belfast is getting the same brewery they’ve always loved back.
“Coming here after work in July or August and grabbing a pint and seeing the people you work with, people in your community and tourists hanging out, enjoying the sun down in the Three Tides beer garden on the harbor — this place has always felt like an old English pub,” said Waldron. “That’s how it’s going to be again.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com
Unlike some of the U.S. National Toboggan Championships teams who’ve sported elaborate and over-the-top costumes in the past 29 years, the founding members of Big Kahoonas— Bruce Richards, Chris Lepow and Edwin Greenrose, along with original member Bill Patten, didn’t worry too much about style. The uniform has always been a dark green embroidered sweatshirt with a fleece hat or ball cap. That’s it, Bub.
Most of the Kahoonas’ energy goes into the making of the toboggan, along with their myriad strategies to win as many of the races as they can.
But, if you want to know where the real secret sauce comes from — behold The Stupid Stick.
Shamans may need ayahuasca in order to conjure the divine—all the Big Kahoonas need is a wooden toboggan runner and eight plastic shot glasses of Dr. McGillicuddy, a flavored spirit that doubles as Prestone De-Icer window washer fluid. On the count of three, The Stupid Stick is tipped back and everyone takes a community shot of the Doctor.
Since they first started competing in 1994, when they were all about 24 or 25 years old, the Big Kahoonas have always raced in multiple heats of two-, three-, and four-person teams. As the years have gone by, the fourth member of the team usually revolves out. With the addition of Greg Sheldon this year, the Fabulous Four are ready to tackle the chute again.
Asked what keeps the momentum up to keep the team together for the 30th year, and Richards will tell you it comes right down to good old-fashioned competition—with his brother, Sean.
“My brother’s team is the Throbbin Boggins and they started a year before we did,” said Richards. “They are our biggest competitor and our partners in crime, as well. So, we can’t stop.”
The team met at Greenrose’s shop in Union last week to work on their latest iteration of a toboggan with ash slats. All told, the team has probably fashioned 10 to 15 toboggans in their racing career.
“We used to build new ones every couple of years,” said Greenrose, who is a builder in his profession.
Richards is an exterminator. “I just kill stuff,” he said.
This year, the team went all Martha Stewart and decided to cut an ash tree down themselves to make the toboggan. They finished off the design by steam bending the runners over a circular form with a steam box.
“Bruce is the one who comes up with these crazy ideas for design,” said Greenrose.
“They work!” Richards shot back.
“We’ve tried all kinds of stuff over the years, different waxes, different combination of the wooden slats, different hand rails,” said Greenrose. “The new ones seems to go faster. This one we’re working on eliminates the hand rails, so it might be a little more flexible. We’ll see if it helps. It’s funny I tell people how long we’ve been doing this and when it comes to building the style of toboggan, we are right back to where we first started in its design. Our same sled, our same finish, our same wax.”
The team doesn’t ever do practice runs, but has faith nothing will go wrong.
“We’ll probably stop half way down,” said Greenrose.
Given how many combinations of teams the Big Kahoonas have, they will be stationed at The Camden Snow Bowl all weekend long, running multiple heats. The payoff for them is about community.
“It’s fun to get together, it’s not like we hang out all of the time,” said Greenrose.
The big white trailer in the parking lot that serves as their home base belongs to Throbbin Boggins and the two teams share it well.
“We just put a Big Kahoonas sticker on the trailer to drive my brother crazy,” said Richards.
It also serves as their warming shack and makeshift bar.
“We make use of The Stupid Stick every 20 minutes,” said Greenrose. “People are always coming by the trailer to say hi. Our whole area is always packed. We have people you don’t see all year long until the Toboggan Races. All the teams give each other hell. It’s pretty good camaraderie.”
In years past, the weather has had a major effect on the teams’ racing times. If it’s frigid cold this year, that’s fine—it’s better for racing. But if it’s snowing or if Hosmer Pond is bumpy, the team members —who always roll off the sled at the bottom to avoid scarring the wood—will probably walk away with bruises the size of hematomas. That’s OK.
But if it’s raining, that’s going to be bad. Real bad.
“Because, I’m the one in front and the second you hit Hosmer Pond, the sled hits a lake of ice water,” said Greenrose. “It’s like going through a frozen log flume. The water shoots right up my pant leg. And you know I’ll be sick three days later.”
Featured on this year’s U.S. National Toboggan Championships official poster, the Big Kahoonas have a fan club, but they don’t let it go to their heads.
“Our whole name is a play on words for you know...” Richards trails off, leaving the meaning up to interpretation, but insinuating it has something to do with the particular part of men’s anatomy that symbolizes courage. “But it’s about a bunch of guys doing stupid stuff.”
For more information on the Camden Snow Bowl’s U.S. National Toboggan Championships visit Camden Snow Bowl
Kay Stephens has been writing about the U.S. National Toboggan Championships since 1999. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Killer Convo
This blog is a is a killer roundup of all arts, entertainment, brewery & distillery, food trucks, happy hour happenings in the Midcoast Maine. Feel free to email me anything about Midcoast arts, entertainment & the creative economy.