2016-05-12 / Front Page

Jimmy the Greek’s closing SoPo site

However, plans move forward for The Cow Bell in Biddeford and a new restaurant in Oxford
By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — Another business is bugging out of South Portland, but, bucking a trend, this one’s not pulling up stakes for Scarborough. This one is decamping all the way to Oxford.

Jim Albert, owner of Jimmy the Greek’s, said Tuesday his restaurant located at 150 Philbrook Ave. in South Portland, on the property of the Maine Mall, will close by the end of May.

“I did not renew my lease with the Maine Mall,” Albert said. “I think market conditions in that area are such that I’ve seen a slowdown in traffic. The numbers just don’t seem to work for what they want. So, we could not reach terms on lease negotiations for renewal.”

After initially considering a capital outlay to remodel the 130-seat site, to make it smaller and more intimate, Albert said he decided to close after five years and focus on two new locations, now in the planning stages, as well as his flagship site, in Old Orchard Beach, which opened in 2008.

“They have about 25 to 30 people in South Portland,” Albert said. “The majority of them are taking a position in Old Orchard Beach and others of them have found positions elsewhere in the industry. A couple also will go on to the new place in Biddeford, while a couple more will stay with me when I open up in Oxford.”

Albert said not much can be revealed about the new Jimmy the Greek’s location on Route 26 in Oxford, given that the deal is not yet finalized. However, he said plans call on a freestanding building “a stone’s throw” from the Hampton Inn currently under construction across the street from the Oxford Casino.

“I think the traffic flow up there is very healthy and there’s less competition,” Albert said. “I think my concept will fit in very well near the Oxford Casino.”

That concept, an open brick oven pizzeria with Greek overtones and live entertainment, is the culmination of Albert’s 30-plus years in the restaurant business. However, it will not carry over to his new Biddeford location.

That restaurant, located at 140 Main St., will be an upscale burger boutique known as The Cow Bell. The site has recently become known for the almost was steakhouse, Steer N Stein, that defaulted on a $125,000 loan from the Biddeford-Saco Area Economic Development Corporation before opening.

Harold Royals, the prospective restaurateur of that store, is now being sued by the corporation, which alleges he went on a $20,000 personal spending spree with money that was supposed to have been used to open the steakhouse.

Albert has signed a 10-year lease with building owner Steve Ebling, who has said he expects Albert’s professionalism and experience will make the new venture a success.

“The theme (of the Cow Bell) will be focused on high-end burgers, including grass-fed, and local craft brews,” Albert said. “As is my track record, I intend on being involved with the community and the continued evolution of the downtown area.”

Jimmy the Greek’s sponsors a number of fundraisers throughout the year, including an annual run – the Frozen 4-Miler – which benefits Send a Kid to Camp through the Old Orchard Beach Recreational Department, as well as the Boys and Girls Club Alumni Association Scholarship.

Albert said he also has reached out to Biddeford-Saco Area Economic Development Corporation to work out an agreement to pay for the limited equipment that was seized or left as part of the corporation’s recovery of assets from the Steer N Stein loan.

Staff Writer Ben Meiklejohn contributed to this story.

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