Cidery signs lease for Kennedy Brothers space

VERGENNES — The owners of Shacksbury Cider and the Kennedy Brothers Marketplace on May 27 made final a lease that will allow the Shoreham cidery to set up its brewing, bottling, warehousing and shipping operations, plus offices and a tasting room, in the Vergennes landmark.
Demolition work in the white creamery building on Kennedy Brothers’ north end should start this week, and Shacksbury co-founder Colin Davis hopes to be doing business and hosting events in the company’s new headquarters by this fall.
The lease signing came after about a year of discussions between Shacksbury and Kennedy Brothers co-owners Bob Feuerstein and Lillian Kennedy that became serious late in 2015.
“We’re very excited to move forward. It’s been a long time coming,” said Davis, who co-founded Shacksbury with David Dolginow in 2013. “We just feel really good about the building, the landlord, the town and everything.”
Feuerstein described Shacksbury’s impending move as positive for his and Kennedy’s building and for the city.
“For Kennedy Brothers, they’re going to be a big anchor tenant. They’ll attract a lot of people,” Feuerstein said. “Of course, Vergennes is very excited, because everybody seems to have a cidery or a brewery or a whiskey distiller, and we don’t, but now we will.”
Davis said many items had to be checked off a list before the three-year-old company, now doing business out of several buildings in Shoreham, could commit to a new home.
As well as determining whether it was the right place for the young company’s major move, there were such issues as a evaluating the building’s structure and obtaining financing and a zoning permit.
The check marks are now in place, with the final zoning OK expected this Monday (June 6), according to City Manager and zoning administrator Mel Hawley. At the May 2 Vergennes Development Review Board meeting, Hawley said board members unanimously told him to draft a favorable decision to be made final this week granting Shacksbury a conditional use permit.
According to that 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.
The lease Shacksbury signed is for the first floor only, but Davis expects in the winter of 2017-2018 to expand into the upper two floors, and the company is already eyeing a future addition to the building.
“I’m definitely thinking about even how we expand outside of the white building,” Davis said.
Davis said it was time for the company — which uses specialty apples, many of them long-forgotten varietals, to make its award-winning hard cider — to move because it would be more efficient to operate out of one building rather than several and the high-profile location would help boost growth.
That growth has already been strong, with Shacksbury penetrating major markets on both coasts. In April, Davis estimated sales had increased 400 percent over 2015, and that after the move he expected to add employees to the personnel already on board.
This fall, Shacksbury is looking forward to introducing Vergennes-area residents to Shacksbury’s new home, as well as holding a grand opening. 
“Something I’m really excited about is inviting people to that space, and especially the Vergennes community,” Davis said.
For Feuerstein, the Shacksbury signing followed two other new tenants signing on, including The Clock Shop and software firm Brault and Barnes Design. He said only three small spaces are still available in a building that totals 41,724 square feet, with a little less than 30,000 square feet rentable.
After four years of ownership, he and Kennedy can breathe more easily, Feuerstein said.
“It’s been gratifying, because to some extent I did build it and hope they come, and they’ve been coming,” he said.
Both Feuerstein and Davis also praised city officials and the Vergennes Partnership, which promotes the city to potential businesses and oversees the health of its downtown.
“The city council is very supportive. The city manager is very helpful. The Vergennes Partnership helped to set up a group of local business people and the city manager to meet with Shacksbury, talk to them, explained what’s doing in Vergennes, what a great place it is, how supportive it is of business,” Feuerstein said. “I suspect that helped attract them to the building as well.”
Davis said Shacksbury did, in fact, appreciate the welcome mat. 
“I think it’s an indication of a positive business atmosphere, that people organize themselves to do something like that,” he said. “It definitely makes an impression.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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