TRENTON — After sitting dormant for five years, the building that once housed the Trenton Lighthouse Restaurant is set to reopen in mid-May under a new name: the Beacon Bar and Grill.
The new restaurant will be run by Missy Leland and her brother-in-law, Chris Leland. They are taking over the business from Chris Leland’s father, Carroll Leland.
“I could have sold it to someone else,” Carroll Leland said. “But I believe there’s a legacy I started that will benefit the community.”
In 1968, Carroll Leland returned to Trenton, where he grew up, after a four-year stint in the Air Force and purchased a small grocery store on Route 3.
In the early 1970s, he bought the gambrel-style building next door and turned it into The Black Barn Restaurant. To meet the growing needs of his thriving restaurant, he added wings to each side of the building, and then in 1994 he had an idea for a more unusual addition.
“I wanted to build something that that would be a landmark,” Carroll Leland said. Originally, he considered building a replica control tower, since the business is close to the Hancock County-Bar Harbor airport.
“Everyone knows what control towers look like, but people in Maine recognize lighthouses more,” he said. “So I drew up a plan for lighthouse structure and they built it.”
And that’s how the iconic building came to be.
Missy Leland said she wanted to rename the restaurant to give it a fresh start, but also wanted to honor the lighthouse tradition.
“Once I started researching, I found out that beacon is another name for a lighthouse,” she said.
Although Missy Leland may be best known to people in the area as the varsity cheerleading coach at Mount Desert Island High School, she is no stranger to the restaurant world. When she was a girl, her parents operated a small lobster pound, and after spending years waitressing and bartending, she managed two local restaurants — the Portside Grill in Bar Harbor and the Seafood Ketch in Bass Harbor.
Renovations to the exterior of the building began in January, and now the finishing touches are being made to the interior.
“I’ve been waiting to do this a long time,” she said. “We’ve patched walls, put in new floors, and right now we’re finishing the service bar. We don’t have an exact opening date yet because we’re still looking to hire qualified kitchen help — cooks, line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers.”
The Beacon Bar and Grill will have three dining areas on the first floor. Upstairs, there will be a full bar with TVs for people to watch sports and a separate room that big parties can reserve. And the dairy bar in the lighthouse section will reopen.
Of course the new eatery will serve fresh seafood, but Missy Leland says she wants their restaurant to serve the community.
“Tourists that come to our area tend to want seafood and maybe a blueberry beer,” said Missy Leland. “But our locals aren’t interested in blueberry beer, and if they want to have lobsters, they’ll go home and steam the lobsters themselves.”
And according to her father-in-law, there’s a big need for a full-service restaurant based in Trenton.
“Between the towns on MDI and Ellsworth, there aren’t many restaurants,” he said. “The lobster pounds along Route 3 are great, but they have limited menus.”
Missy and Chris Leland hope to attract local residents with an American-inspired menu that will include burgers and prime rib. But they also hope the Beacon Bar and Grill will become a community meeting spot, a place where family and friends can come to enjoy each other’s company.
“We’ve got something for everyone,” Missy Leland said. “I’m hoping we can even be part of the bar scene.”
The restaurant can be reached at 460-6303.