New grocery store eyed for Vergennes

FERRISBURGH — Denecker Chevrolet co-owner Tom Denecker said last week his pending $350,000 purchase of land owned by Ferrisburgh at the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A is going well, and he also confirmed he has a prospective purchaser or tenant for the 14 North Main St., Vergennes, branch of his existing dealership.
And the Vergennes Development Review Board on Dec. 30 approved an application for a proposed new business in what is now primarily Denecker Chevrolet’s service and parts branch: Neil’s Family Market, a grocery store.
Denecker and Vergennes City Manager Mel Hawley said the DRB approval came for a grocery store to be operated by city resident Neil Swenor. In 2012 and 2013 Swenor had negotiated with the owners of Kennedy Brothers to open a 10,000-to-12, 000-square-foot store in that North Main Street landmark, but that proposal never came to fruition.
The DRB approval included an addition to Denecker’s existing North Main Street building and new lighting, parking lot delineation and landscaping. Approval conditions included installation of a pedestrian crosswalk across the entrance driveway and the addition of posts across the north and south end of the building to protect pedestrians.
Denecker said he was confident in his arrangement with Swenor, although some details remain to be worked out.
“He’s not sure whether he is going to lease it or buy it at this point,” Denecker said. “He will do it as soon as possible, and he already has a construction company that will go in.”
Denecker said he would defer comment on timing and other details of the plan to Swenor.
“I think it would be unfair of me to comment other than to say I’m excited about it,” Denecker said. “Neil has not revealed his timetable to me.”
Swenor did not respond to several email and phone messages seeking comment late last week.
Denecker did say it was possible he might have to move out his service and parts operation before his new Ferrisburgh location was ready, and said he had a contingency plan he could not yet reveal if such a move was necessary. 
“I am not prepared to talk about where I am going to temporarily relocate,” he said.
Denecker and partner Mike Capra now operate most of their sales operations on a 2.3-acre parcel at the intersection of Route 7 and Monkton Road. They plan to consolidate all their dealership’s sales and service operations from there and North Main Street onto the 34.91 acres of land they are contracted to buy from Ferrisburgh.
The purchase-and-sales agreement has a number of conditions, one of which Denecker said was met last week — his parent corporation, General Motors, formally approved the plan on Jan. 14.
Other conditions include attaining a satisfactory environmental site assessment; receiving OK for project financing, including 80 percent of the land purchase price and $1.72 million for construction of a building that Denecker said would be between 15,000 and 18,500 square feet; and obtaining local and Act 250 permits.
Denecker, who has operated his dealership since 1991 and expanded to the Route 7/Monkton Road site in 2008, said building design is being made final now for the permit applications. He remains hopeful the contracted April 24 closing date is realistic.
“My deal in Ferrisburgh is moving right along, and I have a lot of the pieces in order,” Denecker said. “I have all my ducks in a row.”
The Ferrisburgh selectboard intends to use much of the sale proceeds to complete a $150,000 purchase of a home and 2 acres next to the duplicate Grange Hall that now serves as Ferrisburgh town offices and a community center. 
Denecker’s move will come at least in part because GM strongly prefers its dealers to operate sales and service out of one location. He also said late last year he believes the new site is superior because it offers visibility from both state highways.
His decision is being made in a period of generally favorable news for GM. Its new models have garnered generally favorable reviews, including Consumer Reports’ 2014 choice of the Chevrolet Impala as the best full-size sedan available.
According to Bloomberg News, GM’s stock price rose 42 percent in 2013, and according to zacks.com GM’s vehicle deliveries increased overall by 4 percent in 2013 to about 9.7 million, including a 7 percent uptick in the U.S. and 11 percent jumps in both the United Kingdom and China.
Certainly, Denecker is optimistic about his impending consolidation in Ferrisburgh. 
“We’re comfortable and confident it’s going to happen,” he said. “Nothing can stop us now.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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