Cariboo, Maine – A massive new entertainment venue in the Caribou is restoring a popular restaurant and bowling alley on the former Lorraine Air Force Base.
Evergreen Lanes and Rendezvous Restaurant, which opened on 60 Access Highway last Tuesday, features 12 bowling lanes, a bar and restaurant and the largest TV in Maine, developer Shawn Pelletier said. .
At 35,000 square feet, it is the largest restaurant and event space in Caribou. It also revived 10-pin bowling in northern Maine, which disappeared when Lorraine closed in 1994.
Pelletier works at the bowling alley with Hilda Quinones and her son Justin Quinones. Hilda Quinones knew Pelletier had bought the Access Highway building and lent a helping hand. A conversation with Wayne Langley, the recent owner of Limestone’s former Rendezvous restaurant, inspired Pelletier to add the restaurant.
Pelletier is a Limestone native with fond memories of the restaurant and Evergreen Lanes.
“My family didn’t serve in the military, but a lot of military kids go to Limestone. Evergreen is where we hang out,” Pelletier said. “Rendezvous has been around since the 50’s and has always been popular with the military. People will tell you it has the best pizza they’ve ever had.”
Even after the base closed, people kept coming to the rendezvous point, Langley said. He used the same secret recipe passed down from the original owner, Edmund Owen.
Last fall, Langley sold the cookbook to Pelletier, closed the Limestone restaurant, and agreed to train new Rendezvous kitchen staff.
Pelletier owns apartments and has also invested in Northern Maine Brewing Company and Hilltop Heights Senior Living in Caribou.
The Evergreen/Rendezvous project has been two years in the making. Supply chain issues have delayed the opening several times since July. Pelletier delayed the start of construction until late October and then early December, with contractors finishing in early January. Pelletier held several soft openings ahead of its official opening on Jan. 24.
The initial estimated cost was $4.7 million, but increased shipping and equipment procurement costs pushed up the final price, which Pelletier declined to disclose.
Evergreen is Pelletier’s second investment, along with Hilltop Heights, to benefit from Caribou’s tax-increase financing plan.
People will be invited to watch sports events on Rendezvous’ large 9 x 16 foot televisions.
The company also features a bowling pro shop, arcade, private meeting and event space, and a 40-by-50-inch outdoor patio. The dining and sports bar area seats 250.
Hilda and Justin Quinones work at the pro shop and help with the bowling alley.
The new Rendezvous does have a past: a refurbished 1950s neon restaurant sign glows above the front door.
Langley, who has worked in the restaurant industry for 50 years, is excited to help keep the spirit of Rendezvous alive, he said. The menu offers mostly original items such as the famous local pizza, meatball grinders, pasta, roast beef, burgers and appetizers. \
“Rendezvous has always been a family-friendly place, and we still want it to be a family-friendly place,” Langley said. “It’s a sports bar, bowling alley and entertainment venue. It’s the same Rendezvous vibe, but much better than I expected.”
Pelletier said the location had only been open for a week, but hundreds of people had visited from the area and beyond Aroostook.
Mapleton snowmobilers Jessica Libby, Tim York and Sara Farnham stopped by the Rendezvous Bar on Friday. All three said they would return with family and friends.
“It’s a great vibe,” Libby said. “I think it will bring a lot of people to the area.”
That’s exactly what Langley and Pelletier hope to see.
This fall, Evergreen Lanes will begin offering a community bowling league. As a member of the American Bowling Conference, Evergreen will eventually host the state league tournament, attracting players and spectators from across the country.
Attracting more people to Caribou will become even more important as the city looks to become a more popular destination for outdoor recreation, Pelletier said.
“We want it to be a destination, something unique to the area that attracts people, the way we go to visit certain places in Bangor or Portland,” Pelletier said.