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Bottom Line: Whiskey meets glass as WhistlePig and Simon Pearce team up for restaurant, tasting room

  • Jay Benson, CEO of Simon Pearce, left, Jerod Rockwell General Manager Simon Pearce Restaurant and Nick Karabelas the dining room manager at the The Parker Bar + Bistro go over details at the The Parker Bar + Bistro in Quechee, Vt., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Simon Pearce and WhistlePig are joining forces in the reopening of the Parker House tavern. A photo of mill works on the right is the location of the Simon Pearce Restaurant. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Parker Bar + Bistro in Quechee, Vt., is set to reopen Memorial Day weekend in Quechee, Vt. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Nick Karabelas the dining room manager at The Parker Bar + Bistro works at the new tavern now owned by Simon Pearce Restaurant on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Simon Peace purchased the former Parker House tavern last year. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 5/8/2021 10:08:21 PM
Modified: 5/8/2021 10:08:17 PM

Two familiar Vermont names are getting a cozy place together in Quechee.

Glassmaker and restaurant operator Simon Pearce and craft distiller WhistlePig are joining forces in the reopening of the Parker House tavern, which Simon Pearce purchased last year just before the pandemic struck and shuttered it for 14 months.

To be renamed The Parker Bar + Bistro and set to reopen Memorial Day weekend, the restaurant will feature a WhistlePig Whiskey Parlour where guests will get to sample — for a charge — the Shoreham, Vt.-based craft distiller’s lauded whiskeys and buy WhistlePig’s six- to 18-years-aged rye products to take home.

As Simon Pearce and WhistlePig see it, co-habitating in the postcard historic mill site will add a casual element to a scenic spot on the Ottauquechee River that has been more associated with formal dining — the glassmaker already runs its highly-rated The Mill At Simon Pearce restaurant along the same busy Route 4 tourist corridor.

Jay Benson, CEO of Simon Pearce, said the town of Hartford has invested heavily in upgrading the village since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, which makes it a compelling destination not just for local residents but for tourists traveling between Interstates 91 and 89 and Woodstock.

“Quechee since Irene has a beautiful new covered bridge and a park on Main Street,” Benson said. “We felt there was a good opportunity to fix up the Parker House” as part of the comeback of the village in recent years, in addition to uniting two historic properties that had fallen into separate hands.

(The Pearce family also owns numerous properties along Quechee’s Main Street.)

Simon Pearce, which paid $1.2 million for the Parker House — the glassmaker has no plans at the moment to reopen the former inn’s guest rooms — has spent another mid-six figure amount renovating the French Second Empire-style building that had been the home of 19th-century manufacturer J.C. Parker, who also owned the adjacent mill. Among the work has been restoring the brick facade and slate roof and “landscaping to accentuate the historic structure,” the company said.

But unlike the upscale menu and ambience of The Mill restaurant, The Parker is aiming for a decidedly more casual vibe.

Jerod Rockwell, general manager of The Mill, said the menu will feature small plates ranging from $7 to $12 with such items as “dill and roasted garlic salmon chips” and “Korean BBQ riblets” as well as larger plates for $15 to $20 with items such as “pickle brined fried chicken” and a house burger. Drinks will be about $8.

“We want to differentiate The Parker from The Mill, the kind of place you stop by once a week, don’t need to make a reservation,” Rockwell said.

The idea for WhistlePig’s tasting parlor — it will be located on the second floor and utilize space that was previously occupied by two of the Parker House’s former lodging rooms — grew out of the distiller’s prior collaboration with the glassmaker on a whiskey glass and whiskey bottle stopper sold as part of WhistlePig’s 2nd Edition 18 Year Double Malt Rye.

WhistlePig’s other tasting room in Waterbury, Vt. — the WhistlePig Pavilion at Spruce Peak in Stowe, Vt., is operated under a licensing contract with the resort — was closed during the pandemic.

“We knew we wanted to open a new tasting space and they had space at the Parker,” said Mark Kanya, food and beverage director at WhistlePig, describing the co-location idea as “a great partnership of two premium Vermont brands.”

“We’re out in Shoreham, where it’s pretty desolate,” Kanya said. “And Simon Pearce is down in Quechee where there are lots of tourists and there’s lot more foot traffic coming through their doors. It should be a great success.”

Manufacturer abandons Evarts sawmill plan

The parties aren’t providing any information, but Kennebec Lumber Co. of Maine, which bought the former GH Evarts & Co. sawmill — the last one in Lebanon — on Route 120 in 2019, is listing the property for sale with Lang McLaughry Commercial Real Estate with an asking price of $675,000.

That’s interesting insofar as Upper Valley-based Progressive Manufacturing, founded by Patrick Moynihan, which makes the Solas gas-fueled hearth system, was granted a special exception by the Lebanon Zoning Board last year to build a 27,750-square-foot “light industrial building.”

But Progressive Manufacturing, which at the time intended to move its manufacturing facility from Technology Drive near the Lebanon airport to the former Evarts sawmill site, subsequently appears to have found another location: last November the company announced it had bought a facility in Newport, N.H., and moved operations there from West Lebanon.

Neither Moynihan nor Kennebec Lumber responded to requests for comment.

But Cam Brown of Lang McLaughry Commercial said the 6.6.-acre former Evarts site could be used for “light manufacturing” or “another sawmill” or be developed for another purpose.

“It would be great for mini-storage units,” he said. “Those are popping up all over the place.”

The only thing not included in any deal is the sawmill equipment itself. That is to be sold separately, Brown said.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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