New plans in works for Middlebury’s Old Stone Mill

MIDDLEBURY — The future owners of the old Stone Mill building in Middlebury’s Frog Hollow have hired a team to renovate the historic structure for uses that will include dining, office, lodging and retail.
Assuming a smooth planning and construction processes, business partners Stacey Rainey and Mary Cullinane said the Stone Mill should be undergoing interior repairs in January and then open for business by next summer.
As previously reported by the Independent, Rainey and Cullinane — owners of Community Barn Ventures (CBV) at 44 Main St. — have signed an agreement with Middlebury College to buy the Stone Mill building at 3 Mill St. for $500,000. The college recently put the property on the market. The building until recently hosted the Storm Café and provided space for Middlebury College students to conduct “experiential learning projects.”
The structure is in need of major repairs, and college officials want a new owner to take on that challenge.
“We’ve loved the property forever,” Cullinane said. “When I was first introduced to Middlebury, it was one of the first buildings I saw. It represents so much of what it means to live here.”
She and Rainey made a pitch to the college about how they would use the property under their ownership. College officials liked what they heard, and the parties hammered out a deal for the 9,000-square-foot building that borders the Otter Creek near the scenic downtown falls.
“We’re incredibly excited about the opportunity to bring that building to the town for everyday community use,” Rainey said.
The two partners described some early thoughts on potential floor-by-floor uses of the structure, including:
•  A restaurant on the first floor. The Storm Café enjoyed a 25-year run in the Stone Mill until Nov. 11, when John and Beth Hughes closed the business after being unable to extend their lease with Middlebury College.
“We’re working through a number of different opportunities and conversations right now,” Rainey said, adding she and Cullinane hope to fill the restaurant space with an eatery geared toward families.
•  A “public market” on the second floor. They envision eight to 10 permanent stalls occupied by vendors selling a variety of items, including food and hard goods. Rainey anticipates most vendors will be signed to annual leases, with one or two allowed to make seasonal commitments.
Cullinane and Rainey have visited a lot of public markets, many of them in urban areas. Rather than have each vendor fend for him or herself, the Stone Mill tenants will benefit from several shared services — including a single cash register for customer purchases.
“We will provide staffing in most instances, so vendors will have an opportunity to have space there without having to have (their own) employee there, and separate systems,” Rainey said.
With next to no publicity, the two business partners have already been approached by a few prospective tenants.
“We’re starting to think through what the right mix of vendors will be,” Rainey said.
•  Shared co-working space and around three separate, private working areas for companies to locate teams of their employees. These tenants would also have access to conference rooms on the same floor.
Rainey believes the co-working space will be particularly appealing to telecommuters, of which there are many in the Middlebury area.
“A lot of folks who work from home tend to feel isolated at times, so this is a place they could come and meet,” Rainey said.
•  Lodging opportunities on the top one-and-a-half floors of the building, including four or five Airbnb opportunities. Airbnb is a global company offering an online service through which people can book stays. Each unit would include its own bed and bathroom, with guests able to access shared lounge and kitchen facilities.
Cullinane and Rainey are confident that customers who seek out one of the services in the Stone Mill would come back to try other services.
“Our goal for the building is to really have it be this daily destination,” Cullinane said. “The (Stone Mill) is an iconic statement about this community and it’s history. The more we can do to bring it to life in a way that allows for as many folks as possible to go there and enjoy it, that’s what we want to do.”
Among the few exterior changes, according to Rainey, will be major improvements to the outside deck facing Mill Street.
“We want a place where folks could gather, host community events from time to time,” Rainey said. “We want it to be a very inviting space.”
In keeping with the community building theme of CBV, Cullinane and Rainey want to involve local residents, builders and designers in their interior transformation of the Stone Mill building.
They’ve hired Middlebury’s McLeod Kredell Architects and Silver Maple Construction of New Haven to design and build the project.
Emily Blistein, who ran the Clementine store in downtown Middlebury, will help the duo create what Cullinane called an “enticing and vibrant market.”
Ingrid Jackson will serve as a community liaison, gathering public input and providing advice to ensure the project accomplishes the service goals that Rainey and Cullinane have set.
Rainey and Cullinane will hold an initial open house at their CBV headquarters at 44 Main St. between 5 and 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6, during a downtown promotional event known as the “Midd Night Stroll.” Folks will be able to stop in and comment on floor plans for the Stone Mill.
“We want people to feel as if this is ‘theirs,’ that it reflects something they’d like to celebrate and go to every day,” Cullinane said. “We’ve got a great downtown and we just want to make it a little bit better.”
Indeed, the Stone Mill is but one in many future community building efforts to be undertaken by CBV, according to the two partners.
“Small towns are changing throughout America,” Cullinane noted. “And they have to be less about transactions and more about experiences.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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