The Capitol will return as the restaurant's name once it gets Planning Board approval on Monday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mark Meehan jokes that he bought The Hub restaurant because he wanted to stop working 12-hour days as a contractor after 42 years to work 16 as a restaurateur.
He's been putting those hours in and more over the past week after closing on the sale last Tuesday.
After piloting through the tempest that was the Solid Sound Festival — including running through 80 pounds of homemade corned beef hash in less than two days — Meehan was working through another storm of his own making.
The eatery at 55 Main St. was being turned upside and inside out to prepare for its rebirth — or resurrection — as the Capitol Restaurant.
"It's been good. The first week was long. Yeah, very long. I had seven hours sleep from Tuesday to Sunday afternoon," he laughed earlier this week.
The space was in the midst of getting a deep cleaning from the floors to the ceiling. Meehan has invested in some new equipment and everything not nailed down was being taken apart, scrubbed and put back together.
The new look will blend in some of the old: the large images of historic North Adams that have graced the walls for more than decade will be rehung on freshly painted gray walls with more items like menus from the old Capitol.
The eatery will also be open seven days a week and open earlier on weekends and stay open later on Fridays and Saturdays.
Meehan describes his new menu as "upscale comfort food" with the addition of barbecue and items he picked up studying under chefs when he was working and living in the South.
"I built restaurants all over the country for many years," he said. "And I've always cooked. Every function that was a family day, whatever, I was the one that was designated to do the cooking. And I've been catering for the last 10 years. And with going around and traveling and building restaurants all over the country, I would go to with their cuisines, to take a little bit here and a little bit from there. ...
"I love the Southern cooking and everything like that. So I really get barbecue and started making my own sauces. ... I've got a large following for BBQ."
The Hub had operated for 11 years under owners Charles Doan and his late wife, Barbara, with their daughter Kate Schilling as manager and Matt Schilling as chef. The diner had been a popular Main Street location but the family had been looking to sell over the past months.
Their tenure had been the most successful since the Capitol closed in the late 1990s: Zoie's, run by Gordy Hebler, Lisa Mallari and Shawn Stemp, opened in 1997 and was sold in 2000 to Ray Arsenault and Jimmy Siciliano (later bought out) who named it Fifty-Five Main, and then two years later it became Milan at 55 Main under John "Jack" Carlow until 2008.
Meehan said he and his wife, Debra Morandi, were interested in bringing back the Capitol Restaurant, which had operated for more than 65 years and 25 of those at 55 Main St.
"It's the only building on Main Street with the capital arch," he said. "So I wanted to go back to the Capitol because it's the historic part of the city."
The fancy front is what's left of the entrance to the old Empire Theater, which later became the Paramount. When the backside of the theater was torn down in the mid-'60s, the entrance became first a pizza parlor and then, in 1969, the Capitol moved from State Street.
The restaurant won't officially be the Capitol again until it gains approval on Monday night from the Planning Board. Meehan plans to open on Friday — he was firm that everything would be cleaned, painted and in place — with the new menu.
There are a few holdovers from The Hub but Meehan's added BBQ pulled chicken and pork sandwiches along with a smoked brisket. There's now a Capitol egg roll appetizer with several filling options, chicken or eggplant marsala, smoked ribs and handcut ribeye entrees, burgers and several pasta and seafood dishes.
He's considering a prime rib special a couple times a month and has added a number of vegetarian and vegan options to the menu. And he'll be modifying offerings as he goes.
"I'm going to have basically like a living menu," he said. "We're going to be changing it up. It's not going to stay stagnant."
Meehan says he's working with local suppliers, like Red Shirt Farm in Lanesborough, to ensure his produce is fresh.
"One of my main focuses is I don't want frozen product brought in. I want things grown and fresh. None of my meats are coming frozen," he said. "They go in the smoker or they come in here."
He's also thinking toward the future on how to expand and change up the space. But for now, he's concentrating on finishing his last job as a contractor — renovating a bed & breakfast on Kemp Avenue — and dealing with opening a new restaurant on Friday.
"Yeah, I think Friday is going to be a big day," Meehan said. "I think the whole weekend will be because everybody's looking forward to serving breakfast again."
The Hub (aka Capitol) will be open seven days a week: Monday through Thursday from 11:30 to 10; Friday from 11:30 to midnight; Saturday from 7 to midnight; and Sunday 7 to 10. Breakfast will be served on Saturdays and Sundays. The phone number is 413-662-2500. The Facebook page can be found here.