Vergennes eateries Hired Hand and Shuen Lee eyeing expansion

VERGENNES — The owners of two restaurants, one in downtown Vergennes and one just outside the city limits in Ferrisburgh, are making plans to expand, and in one case move, their operations.
The Vergennes Development Review Board on Aug. 20 will hold public hearings on proposals for Hired Hand Brewing Co. to begin taking over School Street space now occupied by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes and for Shuen Lee Chinese Restaurant to move from the Aubuchon Plaza to 10 Main St., Vergennes, and build a 625-square-foot addition to allow for eat-in dining.
Hired Hand and Bar Antidote co-owner Eliza Benton — she and her husband, Alex Ratliff, recently partnered with Ian Huizenga on both eateries — confirmed last week that Hired Hand will eventually expand into all of the youth club’s space when the club completes its move to Armory Lane.
The first step will be modest, however. They are asking for DRB permission to take over a small portion of the club’s former office, near its front entry, to use for retail. Hired Hand a while back began selling beer growlers and paraphernalia near its School Street entry, and Benton said moving retail operations next door will allow the eatery to reclaim lost seating.
With Hired Hand’s pizzas, craft beers and other menu items moving briskly, Benton said those seats will be valuable, especially when weather will no longer allow recently added outdoor seating to be used.
“We displaced about 10 seats putting in the small retail section. So the hope is to expand next door, move the retail over there … and keep the restaurant running at full capacity,” Benton said. “It’s not so bad now when we have the patio. But come the middle of October it will make a difference.”
The Boys and Girls Club had previously signed a longer-term lease with building owner Hans Vorsteveld, and the restaurant owners, Vorsteveld and club representatives, including club board chairman Jeff Fritz, sat down and reached a deal in which the restaurateurs would take over the space when the club cleared out for Armory Lane.
“We worked closely with Hans and we worked closely with Jeff while they were going through the purchasing process,” Benton said. “Hopefully in the next month or two we’ll be able to start doing what we would like to do over there and get that ball rolling.”
Their plans are not set in stone, although Benton said seating expansion is not in the works. Huizenga could move part of his brewing operation there; now it is split between his basement and Bristol’s Bobcat Café.
Benton said reconfigured entrances, storage, kitchen expansion and special events space could all be on the menu.
“We’re still in the early stages of mapping out how to go about it,” she said. “But almost immediately we hope to create some larger entrances from this side of the building and move some of our equipment there, move the retail space there, have storage over there while we take stock of what we want to do with the space, the best way to go about it, and make sure the town is on board with everything.”
Shuen Lee’s move will probably take longer, according to documents filed with the DRB by owners Zhenting and Ling Lee of South Burlington. They have for more than 22 years operated their takeout-oriented business just outside Vergennes in Ferrisburgh, in the Aubuchon Plaza off Monkton Road between Route 7 and Shaw’s Supermarket.
According to their application they would like to create a 36-seat restaurant with “some outdoor seating,” and employ eight at a building that has in the past housed a restaurant and is now partly occupied by Little City Cycles and two apartments.
 Assuming DRB approval, the Lees hope to purchase a building that is flanked by the Vergennes police station and Precision Print and Copy by late September, build an addition to the rear within eight months, bring the total number of parking spaces up to 28, and complete the project and open for business in their new site by the end of September 2019.
According to new Vergennes Zoning Administrator Peter Garon, DRB members had some concerns about traffic flow and pedestrian safety at an initial meeting in July.
There are currently three concrete traffic islands in front of the property, and members suggested one central island with clearly marked curb cuts for entries and exits at either end, according to Garon.
The property also lacks sidewalk access, and DRB members suggested extending the sidewalk southward from the crosswalk planned for the police station once a sidewalk extension project is completed on the opposite side of the road.
“There was discussion about entryways. There was discussion about (pedestrian) connectivity,” Garon said.
On the 20th the DRB will take testimony on the Hired Hand proposal at 7 p.m. and on the Shuen Lee application at 7:15 p.m.

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