Hilltop Stop founders Gary and Jane Gravel have bought back the Damariscotta store they established in 2011 and plan changes to the dining room and menu, as well as an expansion of the gas station.
The new menu, coming soon, will have new specialty burgers and a new specialty pizza. The Gravels plan to obtain a license to serve beer and wine in the dining room.
As for the gas station, they plan to install a new awning, islands, and pumps, with room for twice as many vehicles.
The Gravels own the store again as of 2 p.m., Monday, June 25, when they closed on the purchase from Bremen developer and philanthropist Dan Goldenson.
Goldenson bought the store from the Gravels in the summer of 2016. He added a beer cave and public restrooms, but little else changed. Gary Gravel continued to manage the store for Goldenson.
Goldenson returned from Florida this spring and approached the Gravels with an offer to sell the store back. The three quickly met and negotiated a price.
The Gravels discussed their plans during an interview at the store shortly after signing the paperwork Monday.
Already, the Gravels have the initial green light from a state liquor inspector to serve beer and wine.
They have to build a half-wall around the dining room and complete the process to obtain their license, including going to a public hearing before the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen.
Customers will continue to order at the counter and employees will bring out their orders.
The owners plan to bring vintage arcade games, including Pac-Man and pinball, back to the dining area and add two more TVs for a total of three.
The new burgers are the Cowboy, with cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, barbecue sauce, jalapenos, and onion rings; the “Rise and Shine,” with cheddar, bacon, and a fried egg; and a mushroom-and-Swiss burger. The kitchen makes every burger with 5 ounces of fresh ground beef from Main Street Grocery.
The new specialty pizza is the Popeye, which has bacon, fresh spinach and garlic, and Alfredo sauce.
For lovers of Hilltop Stop pizza, the store now offers a pizza club. Participants can buy seven large pizzas and get one large one-topping pizza free.
The new menu will bring back a fried haddock sandwich and add two appetizers: fried zucchini and jalapeno poppers.
The Gravels also plan to have more home-style specials each day.
Outside, the gas pumps will move to the downtown side of the property. The Gravels will remove the existing awning and pumps, where they plan to add more parking.
The new configuration will have room for eight vehicles, twice as many as can gas up at the existing pumps.
The Gravels plan to open up access to this side of the property from Chapman Street, which runs behind the property. They will also add a door on the side of the store by the new pumps.
Back in the store, Gary Gravel hopes to overcome negative stereotypes of “gas station food.”
“I know we’re a gas station, but I still think we can offer a good, casual meal for a reasonable price,” he said.
He wants locals to see Hilltop Stop as a place for family dining in a clean environment with good food and good service at an affordable price.
The Gravels, of Jefferson, also own Main Street Grocery, as well as Supplies Unlimited and Oliver’s Print Shop.
Little will change in the management of the businesses: Gary Gravel will continue to manage Hilltop Stop, Jane Gravel will continue to manage Main Street Grocery, and Jane Gravel’s daughter, Stephanie Reichard, will continue to manage Supplies Unlimited, although they all help each other, Gary Gravel said.
Hilltop Stop and Main Street Grocery are hiring. Hilltop has one full-time vacancy and Main Street three.
Hilltop Stop is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at 374 Main St. in Damariscotta. For more information or to place an order, call 563-STOP (7867).