VERGENNES — A local man is hoping to close soon on a deal to acquire the former Kennedy Brothers Marketplace at 11 North Main St. in Vergennes, a 41,724-square-foot complex that would house a new grocery store while maintaining its current tenants and recruiting others.
Neil Swenor, a Vergennes resident and former longtime worker at Greg’s Meat Market in Middlebury, confirmed his plans to acquire the Kennedy Brothers property, which includes four acres. He wants to install and operate an independent grocery store of roughly 10,000-12,000 square feet inside the complex. At the same time, he would retain the current tenants, Vermont Sun Fitness and Vintage Fitness, and market the remaining space to other enterprises.
“Nothing is set,” Swenor stressed during a recent phone interview. “We are moving forward, and it will take some time.”
It was in November of 2010 that Kennedy Brothers President Win Grant announced plans to end retail operations at the complex after a 52-year run. At the time of its closing, Kennedy Brothers employed nine full- and part-time employees and accommodated 50 craft vendors who rented booths of between six and 50 square feet in the building’s 10,000-square-foot marketplace.
Kennedy Brothers began selling gifts and crafts at its Vergennes location in 1960, and enjoyed great prosperity. It downsized twice during the last decade, however, as people’s shopping habits changed and the Grants contemplated retirement. First, Grant closed a second-level antiques center in the complex, then in 2007 consolidated about 19,000 square feet of first-floor retail operations into the brick portion of his building, a space about half the first level. Once Grant made the decision to close, Kennedy Brothers held a liquidation sale from November of 2010 through Jan. 6, 2011.
Realtors marketed the high-profile property, which was listed at $1.2 million.
Grant confirmed on Thursday that he has signed a purchase and sales agreement to sell the property to Swenor. But he said there remain several hoops to go through before a deal can be finalized.
“It will be at least September,” he said, in estimating a closing time for the sale. “There are tons of things that need to be done.”
Grant said Kennedy Brothers — which continues to function as a real estate holding company — would continue to maintain offices at the complex if Swenor acquires the property.
Swenor said he has been working for several months on plans to buy Kennedy Brothers.
“We have always wanted to do a store somewhere,” he said.
Tara Brooks, executive director of the Vergennes Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works toward the prosperity and vitality of the city’s downtown area, applauded Swenor’s efforts to acquire the Kennedy Brothers property and establish an independent grocery store to compete with the nearby Shaw’s Supermarket.
“Competition is good,” she said, of the prospect of better deals and choices for shoppers.
She said having the Kennedy Brothers property occupied and vital would help the entire downtown Vergennes area by exposing more shoppers to other stores in the Little City.
“(Kennedy Brothers) is the first thing people see when they enter Vergennes from the north,” Brooks said of the importance of the complex as a calling card for shoppers.
In other Vergennes business news, Addison Outfitters will be closing its doors at its 179 Main St. location and is holding a liquidation sale through August. The space will not remain vacant for long, however, because Linda’s Apparel and Gifts, located next door at 175 Main St., will be expanding into the Addison Outfitters storefront.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]