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Updated: February 2, 2023

Barnes & Noble headlines retailers joining Merrymeeting Plaza in Brunswick

aerial of stores and woods with signs Courtesy / WS DEVELOPMENT Merrymeeting Plaza, at left, is part of a retail node in Brunswick that attracts traffic from all directions.

The owners of Merrymeeting Plaza, a 160,000-square-foot shopping center at 147 Bath Road in Brunswick, recently signed leases with New England restaurant chain Margaritas and bookstore chain Barnes & Noble.

Each is set to occupy 7,000 square feet and plans to open this summer.

The deals are the latest in a strategy by the plaza’s owner, Chestnut Hill, Mass.-based WS Development, to bring in local, regional and national retailers, Nick Margitza, the development firm’s director of leasing, told Mainebiz.

“Retail is changing and it is our responsibility as stakeholders in each of these communities to attract and activate these properties with businesses that best serve the individual markets,” he said. “We are well-positioned across the state to do just that and undoubtedly benefit from the state’s strong tradition of Maine-owned and -operated businesses.”

In 2019, Margitza told Mainebiz the firm was looking to attract a mix of retailers to the plaza. That plan has unfolded as planned since then, he said this week.

Today, tenants include locally owned Pepper’s Landing Restaurant, Serenity Nails and Fascination Station; Maine-based franchise Sun Tan City; Shaw’s Supermarket; and national chains Petsmart, CVS, Bed Bath Beyond and AAA.

“Our tenants are a mix of local, regional and national businesses and our goal is to continue that trend moving forward,” said Margitza. “We found that to be a winning strategy, especially in Maine where we’ve got great local and regional businesses that do well alongside some of the larger operators.”

The plaza is just west of the intersection with Route 24 and the connector to U.S. Route 1, and across the street from the 3,400-acre Brunswick Landing business, innovation and technology campus. 

WS acquired the property in 1992 and opened the plaza in 1993. It has been significantly expanded and redeveloped since then, said Margitza.

The closing of Brunswick Naval Air Station in 2011, which had a peak payroll of $140 million that fueled the local economy, resulted in a loss of tenants at the plaza. That same year, though, the conversion of the naval air base began to create Brunswick Landing, which brought traffic back to the area.

WS Development owns 15 retail properties in Maine, ranging in size from over 1 million square feet at Marketplace Augusta to Freeport Crossing, which is 98,000 square feet. Freeport Crossing is anchored by Mast Landing Brewing Co. Marketplace Augusta includes retailers like Day’s Jewelers, Agave Mexican Restaurant, Asian Noodle Bowl.

At Merrymeeting Plaza, about 14,000 square feet of retail space remains vacant, split among smaller suites ranging in size from 1,000 square feet up to 9,000 square feet. 

“Our goal is to transition these spaces to be service-oriented –- salons, fast casual restaurants, medical offices. And there’s room for traditional dry goods retail, which this property has served and will continue to have the opportunity to serve,” Margitza said.

Vacancies are marketed in part by working with operators in other markets to analyze demographics and traffic.

“That allows us to pitch this as being a good fit for particular operators,” Margitza said. Additionally, development at Brunswick Landing and elsewhere in the town has created a cycle of interest in the area, he said. And the plaza’s location, as part of the larger retail area of Cook’s Corner, brings traffic not only from surrounding towns but from towns on the peninsulas to the south.

“We’re both the beneficiary of interest in Greater Brunswick and our goal is to boost attraction to Greater Brunswick,” he said.

The fit-up for Barnes & Noble will be relatively quick, he said.

“The space easily accommodates that use,” he said.

As a full-service restaurant and bar, Margarita’s will be a more involved project that will convert a former retail space to include a kitchen and dining area and build a large patio area for outdoor seating.

“Brunswick is a great place to be,” said Margitza. “It benefits from proximity to Portland but very much has its own identity and drivers of traffic. It makes for an attractive market for retailers expanding into Maine. We expect that to continue.”

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February 6, 2023

Margaritas is sort of irrelevant. It won't really be able to compete with El Rodeo, which offers truly genuine, high quality, Mexican cuisine-- and pretty cheap drinks. The Barnes and Nobles news is more important, by far. Since Borders closed, and Bookland, Brunswick has been without a big, commercial, bookstore. Gulf of Maine, in downtown Brunswick, despite its size, has filled the gap pretty nicely, and its owner, Gary Lawless, is a genuine book seller.

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