NORTH CONWAY - Attracted by the area's scenic beauty, active lifestyle, year-round tourism and the success of similar businesses, Sea Dog Brewing is preparing to open a brew pub in the Mount Washington Valley. The company operates five brew pubs in Maine and Florida.
Jim Bunting, Sea Dog Brewing's operation manager, said Thursday that construction is expected to begin immediately, and the company expects to have the pub ready by late November or early December.
Bunting said he first came to the Mount Washington Valley about a quarter century ago to ski Tuckerman Ravine and has often returned. Many Sea Dog employees are familiar with the area and have a similar affinity for it, he said.
The company was founded in 1993 and is owned by Maine native Fred Forsley, whose other holdings include the Shipyard Brewing Co. Sea Dog Brewing has brew pubs and/or restaurants in Bangor, South Portland and Topsham, Maine, and also in Clearwater and Orlando, Fla.
Although he declined to get into the details of Sea Dog's lease agreement with the property owner, Bunting said, "We hope it will be a very long and fruitful relationship with North Conway."
Sea Dog will occupy several thousand square feet of space in the historic Red Barn on both the main level, which will host a 200-seat restaurant, and the mezzanine level.
Bunting said there are already plans in place to add some new, flexible space for private functions.
With its 37-foot tall ceiling and "very dramatic post-and-beam structure, it (the Red Barn) is really an attractive facility for us to operate in," said Bunting.
He said the big parking lot in the back is a blessing, too.
Jim Kaplan of the Red Barn Shopping Center said the Red Barn will be renovated, but will retain its rustic feel.
"We aren't trying to hide the fact that this is a barn," Kaplan said.
"We love the idea of preserving the historic look of the building, and Sea Dog agrees. We want to accentuate the barn's architectural and structural design features."
Kaplan said the Red Barn's history stretches back to the 18th century when the original farmhouse, now occupied by North Conway Music Center, was known as the Moat Mountain House Inn.
Over time, additional buildings were added to the farmhouse and barn, creating the Red Barn Shopping Center in 1975.
In addition to the North Conway Music Center, the shopping center is home to the Corning Outlet Center, Close Knit Sisters, North Conway Furniture Outlet, Dollar Tree and Pain Care, all of which will remain open as Sea Dog Brewing moves in.