Kennedy Brothers draw tenants; city icon could get more

VERGENNES — With two new tenants in place and several prospects in the pipeline, the new owners of Vergennes landmark Kennedy Brothers Marketplace believe things have gone well since acquiring the North Main Street property in a family deal last December.
Boulder, Colo., couple Lillian Kennedy and Robert Feuerstein bought the Vergennes property and a Burlington property occupied by Sweetwaters restaurant from members of Kennedy’s family.
Three sisters — Lillian Kennedy, Jean Kennedy of Maine and Ruth Grant of Waltham — and two of their husbands — Feuerstein and longtime Kennedy Brothers president Win Grant — were all involved in the transaction, according to family members.
Before the deal, Lillian Kennedy and Feuerstein owned 24 percent of the 41,724-square-foot Kennedy Brothers Marketplace building. Afterward, the couple owned all of what was once a factory, and then became a gift shop blended with dozens of craft booths and a second-level antiques center before being transformed into a rental property.
Since then they have had some renovations performed, have spoken to many people interested in leasing space, and signed up two: Chocolate Hollow, a specialty chocolate business, and Raintree Jewelers. Those firms between them have rented about 1,300 square feet of space above the entrance lobby in the building’s brick portion.
“We’ve had a lot of interesting experiences talking to a lot of potential tenants,” Feuerstein said. “It’s gone well.”
Feuerstein is also optimistic he will soon close a deal with a restaurateur for another 3,000 square feet, a deal he called 90 percent probable, and also has a social services agency interested in another 2,000 square feet.
“We’re in discussions with a few,” he said. “Those are the two hot ones right now.”
Another tenant has a long-range interest in about half of the 10,000-square-foot, white, northern portion of the building, which Feuerstein said needs some additional renovation before occupancy. If that tenant agrees to a 2015 lease, work could begin soon on that portion of the property.
Feuerstein likened renting out the large commercial Kennedy Brothers property to the process undergone by BristolWorks owner Kevin Harper. Feuerstein said Harper told him that it took about three years to reach full occupancy in his Bristol property, and Feuerstein believes he and Kennedy are on the same track.  
“If things keep going that way for us (we will, too), and that’s pretty good,” Feuerstein said.
Chocolate Hollow specializes in vegan dark, milk and white chocolate, all made without dairy products; its slogan is “Udderlessly Divine.” Feuerstein said the company is a new venture by owner Madeleine Siegel, who set up shop at Kennedy Brothers a couple months ago.
Raintree Jewelry is co-owned by the husband-and-wife team of Mike Tope and Shannon Mahoney, who according to a Feuerstein press release have 45 years combined experience in jewelry design and manufacturing. The company is described as “a full-service manufacturing and repair studio that specializes in hand-crafted fine jewelry featuring gold, precious gems and black coral.” Feuerstein expected Tope and Mahoney to be fully moved in by the end of this week.
Feuerstein and Kennedy have retained the previous tenants, Vermont Sun Fitness, Vintage Fitness and Green Mountain Wireless, and Kennedy Brothers also has office space in the complex.
Feuerstein did confirm there is no longer a chance for a 10,000-square-foot grocery store; that possibility, which had cropped up in 2012, “didn’t pan out,” he said.
As well as dealing with rental issues, Feuerstein and Kennedy have also overseen renovations. Feuerstein said Carter Norris Masonry has been making masonry repairs to the building to improve its integrity and reduce drafts, while Raymond Renovation & New Construction, Peck Electric, Ryan Plumbing and Jackman Fuels have performed other work.
A major project was replacing the building’s 63-year-old steam boilers, which were housed in an outbuilding. Feuerstein said it wasn’t hard to tell where the heating pipe to the building ran.  
“I’ve been paying to heat the ground,” he said.
The new dual-fuel boiler will save money and improve comfort as well as efficiency, he said.
Within a couple weeks, a new sign that Feuerstein said will be striking will draw attention to Kennedy Brothers.
“It’s going to be artistic,” he said. “This one will be quite lovely.”
Finally, Feuerstein said he and Kennedy have enjoyed working with and meeting city officials and members of the Vergennes community.
“It’s a great place to do business,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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