Kennedy Brothers Marketplace sold in family deal

VERGENNES — The Kennedy Brothers business, including the landmark 11 North Main St. building in Vergennes, changed hands in a late-December family deal that will allow its long-time principal owner to retire.
The transaction also means the 41,724-square-foot Kennedy Brothers Marketplace building will no longer be for sale for $1.2 million, as it has been in recent years; its new owners have taken it off the market and will continue to look for tenants.
Three sisters — Lillian Kennedy of Boulder, Colo., Jean Kennedy of Maine and Ruth Grant of Waltham — and two of their husbands — Robert Feuerstein of Boulder and longtime former principal owner Win Grant of Waltham — were all involved in the December deal, according to family members.
The sisters each owned 24 percent of the real estate company — which also owns 13 Main St., Vergennes, and the Burlington building occupied by Sweetwaters restaurant. Win Grant owned the remaining 28 percent, which had given the Grants the controlling 52 percent interest.
In the transaction, Jean Kennedy and the Grants sold their shares to the Colorado couple of Lillian Kennedy and Feuerstein, who now own the full 100 percent.
Lillian Kennedy — an artist whose murals are displayed, among other places, in the Bronx Zoo and New York restaurant Tavern on the Green — said last week she and her husband, who telecommutes for a London firm, are excited about the possibilities for the Marketplace building.
“We’re looking for tenants. We want to fix it up and make it as lively and wonderful as we can and make it a great addition to the Northern Gateway (of Vergennes),” she said. “It has so much potential.”
One of those tenants may yet be Vergennes resident Neil Swenor, who tried unsuccessfully to buy the Marketplace building from the Grants last year. Swenor hoped to anchor the building with a 10,000-square-foot grocery store and rent the rest, but found bank financing hard to come by. Win Grant and Lillian Kennedy said Swenor is still working on financing for a lease to fund the store.
Grant said the situation remains “tentative,” but Kennedy is hopeful. She said many residents have expressed an interest in Swenor’s plans.
“It would be fantastic for the town and for us and for Neil,” she said. “It would be great if it happens.”
Grant said given all the Kennedy Brothers assets, the firm is in good shape. Sweetwaters has rented its building for 25 years, he said, and 13 Main St.’s shop space is filled with a hair salon and its apartment is rented.
During Grant’s 43-year tenure, he oversaw the Marketplace building’s transitions from what he called a debt-ridden factory that needed significant maintenance, then to a gift shop blended with dozens of craft booths and a second-level antiques center, and finally to a rental property with two current second-story tenants, Vermont Sun Fitness and Vintage Fitness, plus the Kennedy Brothers office.
He said he is confident in the building’s future.
“We think the building has great potential for other uses,” Grant said. “If I were 13 or 14 years younger, I would do what (Kennedy and Feuerstein are) doing.”
But he said it is time to retire, which has been his goal in recent years.
“I’m 69 years old. I have other things that I’d like to do, and I’ve been doing this for 43 years,” Grant said.
The Grants have a 75-acre spread in Waltham that includes a vineyard; Ruth Grant, a physician, wants to continue to focus on advocating for Vermont’s mental health patients, an effort informed at least in part by their son’s mental illness; and the couple would like to travel more, especially to Arizona, where they have a young granddaughter.
“She needs to be spoiled,” Win Grant said.
Meanwhile, Kennedy and Feuerstein plan to travel, too. They intend to spend about one week a month and most of the summers in the area focusing on their newest investment, which they are confident they can revive.
“It can really come up in 2013 and be happy and full of life again,” Kennedy said.
And they can always call on Grant for a little help or advice.
“He was over here plowing yesterday,” Kennedy said. “He will remain a resource.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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