Justine Corbi is fairly new to Maine – she emigrated from France four years ago. Matt and Corrinna Stum are even newer, moving unseen from Indiana to Portland last summer.
Corbi, owner of the Bravo Maine Cooking School, and the Stums, food service veterans who dreamed of opening a new restaurant in town, have found a home at 64 Pine St. in Portland, formerly Aurora Provisions .
While not long-time natives, the three know the location of the former cafe and bakery in the neighborhood and want to honor it by providing space for the very hungry West End community.
“The people in Maine are very nice, very friendly,” said Corbi on Monday as she stood in the spacious, sun-drenched dining area. “We want to reflect that here.”
Corrinna Stum added, “The West End is hungry for this.”
Corbi rented the 4,269-square-foot single-story building in February from owner Tom Landry of Benchmark Real Estate.
The Stums rent out Ruby’s West End for their restaurant during the day. The relationship works well – Corbi offers evening and day classes when Ruby’s isn’t open. Ruby’s, which performed a tape cut on Wednesday, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The building at 64 PIne St., which was seen in December, now houses the Bravo Maine Cooking School and Ruby’s West End brunch restaurant.
Adjust the vision
Landry, who lives in the West End with his wife Amy and their children, bought the building in 2019 and rented it to Liz Koenigsberg and Will Lavey, owners of the Blue Spoon, for a catering business. They closed the West End store when the pandemic shut down catering.
The building was turnkey, had a commercial kitchen, and had many appliances. The public space is large and is good for social distancing. After the caterers left, Landry thought the empty building would be ideal for collaborative food service purposes, helping restaurants affected by the pandemic products and keeping their brands alive.
“There was a lot of interest,” he said, but from non-food companies. “They didn’t go with what I had in mind.”
When Corbi approached him, he saw that she was passionate about what she was doing and that she knew what she wanted. He thought it would fit perfectly.
Corbi had worked at the Fork Food Lab, a coworking food producer space in West Bayside, but wanted something bigger to call herself, especially as the pandemic rages on. She needed space for students to spread out, space for the food they had cooked, and space to prepare meals for others to eat in due course.
She couldn’t find anything that really fitted until she saw 64 Pine St. The 70 year old single story building, which was built as a grocery store, has its own parking lot, large windows, lots of space, a large commercial kitchen, and even some of the equipment she had to purchase.
“I was looking for a place that was more intimate,” she says, and although the space is large, it has the intimacy that there is room to interact with students in a way that Fork Food doesn’t could.
She also loves the West End location. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood,” she said with a lot of energy and people interested in what’s going on in the former Aurora.
She has four employees, all cooks who teach cooking classes for adults and children, one of whom may also start a catering business in this room. Her classes are limited to 10 people until the pandemic has subsided, but she plans to expand to 12-15 once the pandemic has subsided and she is comfortable with it.
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Ruby’s, a new brunch restaurant at 64 Pine St. in Portland, is named after Matt Srum’s grandmother (left), who owns the restaurant with his wife Corrinna (right).
Suddenly they open a restaurant
The Stums who do business as Renn Restaurant Group LLC lived in Indianapolis around this time last year and had never been to Maine.
Matt began his career in the city’s kitchen and soon became a chef, working at two James Beard-nominated restaurants in Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Corrinna opened 12 restaurants with the Boca Restaurant Group in Cincinnati and the Cunningham Restaurant Group in Indianapolis before becoming a consultant.
“We wanted to continue our career,” said Corrinna on Monday. As industry veterans, aware of Portland’s growing reputation as a food town, they moved there in August. Matt got a job in the kitchen on Fore Street and Corrinna was assistant manager at Central Provisions.
Eventually they planned to open their own restaurant. With an emphasis on eventually. “We didn’t expect to do it in our first season here,” said Corrinna.
They were initially unaware of the story of Aurora, but as residents of the West End, they soon heard about it. And then they heard about Brava Maine. You wouldn’t miss the opportunity.
Both say the need for a neighborhood restaurant and hangout point is obvious. The community has been “incredibly supportive” and very interested in what the Stums are doing.
Pastries aside, the restaurant serves non-traditional brunch foods like sea trout, cucumber ceviche, and pork belly. They will have both dinner and take away and also have a pay-it-forward program where people can donate so the restaurant can serve meals to starving people.
Common room again
The space was a community effort from the start. The Stums posted a call for table assemblies on the local neighbors’ Facebook page and now have a collection of embroidered tablecloths and lace tablecloths and more.
“Everything was donated by neighbors,” said Corrinna Stum, pointing to the nicely laid tables that were spread around the room. “It brings new life to the room.”
Artwork on the wall will also be donated, including blown glass flowers by an artist friend of the couple. The restaurant is named after Matt’s grandmother, and in the corner there is a photo of her and other members of both sides of the Stums family.
“Presentation and image are important,” said Corbi. This applies not only to the furnishings, but also to the fact that there is life in the building day and night. “It’s good that people can go by and see that something is going on here.”
You and the Stums look forward to working together and exploring the possibilities. Both plan to use the outside area, which has room for a terrace in warm weather. Immediate plans are to put up a new sign. Until then, the Aurora Commission mark will be back on.
Landry, who also has a food service background and has been Director of Food Service Marketing for Barber Foods for 11 years, is delighted with the result.
The building, with its room and large commercial kitchen, “is a production kitchen, it’s a production room,” he said. “It’s great that it’s being used to the full, and Bravo and Ruby really fit into the community. The old Aurora was a community hangout and that was always the goal.”