The Colonel’s Restaurant and Bakery
Pizzas, seafood, and pub favorites on Main Street, Northeast Harbor
141 Main Street, Northeast Harbor
Meet Our August Featured Business: The Colonel’s Restaurant and Bakery
Since opening for the first time in 1974 under Ed and Eileen Branch, The Colonel’s Restaurant has been a neighborhood institution. As they approach their 45th anniversary, The Colonel’s is in its third generation of family ownership. Now run by Ed and Eileen’s grandson, Mark Reece and his wife Stephanie Kelley-Reece, The Colonel’s continues to delight year-round and seasonal residents, as well as the many visitors to Northeast Harbor. This month we are featuring The Colonel’s Restaurant and Bakery to share some of its history and to highlight the Mount Desert Island natives keeping it thriving for the next generation.
When Ed and Eileen Branch bought the property at 143 Main Street they already owned another restaurant, the Mast and Rudder at Kimball Terrace Inn, but wanted to set up a Main Street eatery. The restaurant’s name was a reference to Ed, but not because of his military service. Rather, it was Ed’s white goatee resembling Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame that earned him the nickname “Colonel.”
Ed and Eileen’s daughter and son-in-law, Sherry and Terry Reece, took over the restaurant in early 1980s. During that time, Northeast Harbor was less of a tourist destination so they aligned their menu to the local and summer resident communities’ tastes. Their son Mark grew up around the restaurant and worked there alongside his future wife, Stephanie Kelley from Bar Harbor. Mark knew that he wanted to work in the restaurant business eventually, so when he went to college he devoted his time to business classes.
In 2004 Terry and Sherry were ready to retire and proposed turning the restaurant over to Mark and Stephanie. Having gone away to college, spent time travelling, and started their own family, the couple was ready to take up the family business. By that point, tourism had become a significant driver of Northeast Harbor’s economy and Mark’s parents were working hard to serve both the resident and tourist markets. Mark and Stephanie recognized that the model of trying to meet such different tastes was putting too much strain on the business. During their first years operating the restaurant, they made the decision to focus on a pub menu and atmosphere that reached the widest audience.
The building was already over 100 years old when Mark and Stephanie took over The Colonel’s. In 2008, just four years into their tenure, a fire broke out in the restaurant and destroyed it, as well as two other buildings on Main Street. Redoubling their commitment to the community, Mark and Stephanie were determined to rebuild. In that process, the Reece family made strategic changes, some of which would not have been possible otherwise and that have yielded great results.
They preserved the character of the previous structure by recreating the original facade while modernizing the rest of the building’s construction and design, including the installation of a heating system, housing for some of their staff of 27-30 people, plus the addition of Colonel’s Suites upstairs. Managed by Mark’s parents, Sherry and Terry, with availability throughout the year, the Suites have provided a reliable stream of customers each year from the restaurant’s opening day in mid-March through their closing after the MDI Marathon in October.
They also reformatted the floor plan of the restaurant to create a retail counter for bakery sales, a small bar, and cozy wooden booths that enhance the pub feel. Their restaurant menu has evolved over time to offer nuanced interpretations of classic pub fare, pizzas, and Maine seafood favorites, while the bakery cranks out an impressive array of very popular donuts and baked goods.
Northeast Harbor, the town of Mount Desert, and the Island as a whole have enjoyed The Colonel’s for decades. Beyond the thousands of meals they’ve served, their commitment to the vitality of this place helps to fortify it for future generations, including their own children, who are the fifth generation of the Branch/Reece family to help run the business. Stay in touch with The Colonel’s through their website and Facebook page.