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Kennedy Brothers builds business tenants at city landmark

VERGENNES — Shoreham hard cider maker Shacksbury Cider and the owners of the Kennedy Brothers Marketplace building have applied for a zoning permit that would allow the three-year-old cider company to set up its brewing, bottling, warehousing and shipping operations, plus offices and a tasting room, in the Vergennes landmark.
Shacksbury co-founder Colin Davis and Kennedy Brothers co-owner Robert Feuerstein said some details of a long-term lease for the long-vacant, three-story northern end of the 41,724-square-foot building remain to be worked out, but both believe an agreement will be reached shortly.
“We’re hoping to finalize the lease here in the next week or two,” Davis said. “And once that happens we’re going to move forward with renovating the old creamery and building out a facility with a tasting room and everything.”
Feuerstein, who co-signed the conditional use zoning application with Davis, echoed Davis’ point of view.
“I expect we’re going to come to an agreement,” he said. “I’m certainly hopeful we’ll make it come through.”
The permit they seek will be to restore manufacturing to the first floor of Kennedy Brothers’ white “Creamery” wing, which until about a decade ago hosted the Kennedy Brothers factory store. Long ago it served as a dairy creamery for the Kennedy family farm. Feuerstein’s wife and property co-owner, Lillian Kennedy, is a member of that family.
Vergennes City Manager and Zoning Administrator Mel Hawley said retail and manufacturing, as well as the other uses Shacksbury is proposing, are all conditionally permitted in the Northern Gateway Zone in which the property lies. The project only needs a permit because of the use change from retail, Hawley said. The Vergennes Development Review Board has set a public hearing on the application for May 2 at 7 p.m. at Vergennes City Hall.
According to the application, the three-story creamery wing includes 3,344 square feet on the first floor and 2,600 square feet on each of the second and third floors. Davis said Shacksbury, which he and David Dolginow founded in 2013 and began selling products in 2014, would first occupy at the ground floor and possibly some of the second level.  
“That’s still a little bit up in the air,” Davis said. “We’re kind of going back and forth on exactly what this first phase is going to look like.”
Given that Davis said sales this year are up 400 percent over last year and Shacksbury has successfully penetrated markets that include Boston, New York and California, plans do call for the company to expand into the rest of the building in the next year or two — and possibly add onto the building at some point.
“One of the things we like about that property is there’s some additional room to build,” Davis said.
There were also other things Davis said Shacksbury liked about Kennedy Brothers, including the structure and location at the city’s northern gateway on Route 22A. 
“We were looking for a place where there is a story, with some history,” he said. “We like that about Kennedy Brothers, that it’s had a long history in town, and the fact it’s been a creamery before, we thought that was cool. And the space itself, it’s a little rundown now, but we think it has a lot of potential to be a really beautiful showcase for our brand. And we felt it was a good place in terms of traffic and visibility.”
Davis added that it was time for the company, which uses specialty apples, many of them long-forgotten varietals the company owners believe are ideal for cider, to make a move that will include adding several employees to the three already on board.
“We need to do something from a production standpoint. We’re operating out of several buildings right now, and it’s not very efficient,” Davis said.
Feuerstein believes Shacksbury will make both an ideal addition to the site and a draw for the city.
“I think it will be great. It will be great for the building. It will be great for Vergennes,” Feuerstein said, adding, “It will be a lot of fun having them there. He’s got all sorts of plans for events.”
Assuming a permit is awarded and the lease details are ironed out, Feuerstein will act as the general contractor for work that could begin soon. Davis and Feuerstein have been discussing a deal for months, and now Davis would like to get the wheels in motion. 
“I would love to be in there by August,” Davis said.
OTHER TENANTS SIGN ON
For Feuerstein and Kennedy, completing the Shacksbury deal will be one of their biggest successes since acquiring the Kennedy Brothers property in a family deal in December of 2012, although they have made steady progress on the north end of Main Street.
They have recently inked two other new tenants, The Clock Shop and a web design and software firm called Brault and Barnes Design.
Brault and Barnes will move into a second-floor office space sometime in mid-May.
The Clock Shop will be leaving its longtime home on Green Street, and on or about May 1 will move into a first-floor space with a separate entrance at the rear of the Kennedy Brothers building. The Clock Shop’s move will allow its Green Street neighbor, Bar Antidote, to expand its operations, notably its kitchen, according to Feuerstein.
The Clock Shop’s new space abuts Feuerstein and Kennedy’s latest venture, KB Co-Working, on the first floor next to the Creamery.
Feuerstein said KB Co-Working is still finding its footing.
“It’s a little slow. The conference rooms are doing pretty well. We’re getting something almost every week,” he said. “I’m sure it’s going to slowly grow. Like everything else, it’s taking longer than I’d like, but it’s just the nature of the beast.”
Feuerstein and Kennedy’s other new venture, the KB Café, at the other end of the building, is dealing with the mid-winter blues that most Vermont eateries experience, Feuerstein said.
But only a handful of rental slots remain available in what is almost an acre of square footage in the building, and his assessment of the progress at Kennedy Brothers in the past three-plus years is positive. 
“I can’t complain,” Feuerstein said. “I can’t complain at all.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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