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July 31, 2017

Prominent chef transforming colonial Buxton homestead into classic smokehouse-restaurant

Courtesy / Victor Tedford
Courtesy / Victor Tedford
The interior of the 1780 Colonial homestead in Buxton purchased by chef Max Brody for $230,000 on June 21 features original floorboards and beams. Brody plans to transform the property into an old-style New England smokehouse and restaurant.

BUXTON — A 1780 colonial homestead in this town attracted the eye of a prominent chef as the ideal spot for an old-style New England smokehouse and restaurant.

Max Brody purchased the 1,900-square-foot building, which is on three acres at 1420 Long Plains Road, from The Ivory Libby Homestead LLC for $230,000. Mary Ann Saxby of Keller Williams represented the seller and Victor Tedford of Magnusson Balfour represented the buyer in the deal, which closed June 21.

The seller purchased the property 11 years ago, said Saxby. It had been a home up until then, but was long vacant. The seller restored the property and operated The Mustard House antiques store.

Tedford said Buxton is attracting like-minded entrepreneurs, like a woodworker who uses recycled wood and a provider of events who uses a renovated farmhouse and barn.

Brody grew up in Newton, Mass., the son of chef and prolific cookbook author Lora Brody.

"I was fortunate that my grandmother and my mother were both very good cooks," he said. Mother and son in 1998 jointly wrote the cookbook "Stuff It!: Fun Filled Foods to Savor and Satisfy."

Brody started restaurant work at age 10.

"Our family had a friend who owned a bistro in Massachusetts," he said. "I was peeling potatoes, sweeping. It's one of those things where getting started early helped me find my path."

He subsequently cooked at and managed restaurants around the country, then continued the work overseas for two years, in places like Italy, India, Nepal and Thailand. Running low on funds, he went to Taiwan, where his brother Jonathan lived in Taipei. The two opened a Mexican restaurant there.

"It's one of those things where we had the market cornered," Brody said with a laugh. "It was nice to see that margaritas are universal."

In 2004, he and another brother, Sam, in 2004 opened a restaurant, the Night Kitchen in the western Massachusetts town of Montague, offering fare like duck, quail, lamb and rabbit.

"In one of my favorite reviews, the reviewer commented it seemed less like a restaurant and more like a successful dinner party," he said.

In 2014, with a son in kindergarten, Brody and his wife decided they wanted to be in neighborhood where their son could walk to school. They chose Portland. Brody gave up cooking for a while to be a stay-at-home dad, with some industry consulting on the side.

"Restaurants are demanding on your time," he said. "I enjoyed playing a larger role in my family's everyday life."

Hearty fare in a historic setting

Courtesy / Victor Tedford
Courtesy / Victor Tedford
Chef Max Brody purchased this Colonial homestead at 1420 Long Plains Road with plans to renovate it into a smokehouse and restaurant.

He began looking at potential restaurant properties in early 2016. In the Mustard House, he said, "I knew if it was feasible to turn a property into a commercial food service establishment, that would definitely be the place. It's got such a unique charm and aesthetic. It's very rustic, and it's well maintained. That building has been there 250 years or so. I feel like it's my responsibility to maintain it and make it a better place for somebody afterward."

Brody obtained loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration 504 Loan program and Gorham Savings Bank.

"Julie Viola and her team have been extraordinarily helpful," he said of the bank.

He'll call it the Buxton Common, offering fare like ribs and homemade sausages. Considerable investment will go into converting the property for restaurant use. The expected investment is uncertain, he said, adding, "It's turned into a much larger project than I initially envisioned."

Renovation includes installing a large septic system and constructing an attached barn to house the commercial kitchen, basement for storage and utilities, bar and meat smoker. The original building, which has six rooms, a kitchen and an unfinished second floor, will seat up to 60 customers. A new back deck will accommodate another 20.

The addition will incorporate the same materials and style as the old, using reclaimed lumber and having features like an open-truss ceiling, he said. (Construction and restoration are featured at The Buxton Common Facebook page.)

The original building features the classic old New England stylings, like lower ceilings and beams that still have the bark on them. In one spot, he said, someone beautifully engraved their name with the date 1796. He expects to be operational by April 2018.

"It's a very charming place," he said. "When you have a restaurant or any businesses, you wind up spending an inordinate amount of time there. I like to be in nice surroundings."

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