Bottom Line: New owner takes a seat at the Farmer’s Table Cafe; dealership parcel’s resale value surges

  • 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: 12/19/2020 9:58:39 PM
Modified: 12/20/2020 11:30:00 AM

Randy White is the first to acknowledge that some people might be wondering if he has lost his mind.

“Let’s buy a restaurant during a pandemic?” White puts the question to himself. “Most people would say this guy has lost his rocker. But I see an opportunity.”

That “opportunity” was to reopen Farmer’s Table Cafe, adjacent to Rum Brook Market at Exit 13 off Interstate 89 in Grantham, a couple weeks ago. The restaurant had been closed since March when previous owner Sara Hastings shut it down during the first wave of the pandemic.

White, a former Dartmouth-Hitchcock IT specialist whose rock band often played gigs at the cafe, purchased it from Hastings — “name, decor, the whole works” — and brought back many of the restaurant’s kitchen crew and front house staff, along with “95% of the menu.”

“My idea is to pretty much keep everything the same,” White explained. “I took advantage of my IT skills and improved the web page for online ordering, which we couldn’t do before.”

Farmer’s Table Cafe, with its simple but fresh tavern fare and wood-fired pizza, has been an oasis in Grantham given the void of decent sit-down restaurants in the vicinity (though last summer the clubhouse restaurant at Eastman, which is open to the public, reopened as Forbes Tavern under the wife-and-husband team Audrey and Eric Calhua).

Hastings is also on hand as a “consultant” to help with the hand-off to ensure all goes smoothly, White said.

White said he’s reduced indoor seating capacity from 85 to 57 to comply with COVID-19 health protocols and takes temperatures of all customers entering.

White, a Grantham resident, said that he had been weighing things to do when he left DHMC and Farmer’s Table Cafe combined the right elements: a restaurant with a good reputation and a great location, a few hundred feet off Exit 13.

“I had a list of pros and cons. But the pro list outweighed the con list,” White said.

Although the pandemic is one of the cons, White said he is looking beyond the immediate term.

“COVID won’t last forever. And I want to set up the underpinnings,” White said.

The returning kitchen crew includes co-chefs Harry Butler and Natasha Vuletich. Also returning are Vuletich’s mother, Natalie Vuletich, a prep cook who also makes salads, and Michael Ford, whom White describes as his “ace brick pizza guy.”

Hastings is also on hand as a “consultant” to help with the handoff to ensure all goes smoothly.

“Under Sara it was a beloved local spot, and I want to keep it a beloved local spot,” White said.

Premium pricefor Prime Auto property

I’m not sure exactly what to make of this, but Prime Auto Group, owner of the new Prime Subaru dealership on Sykes Mountain Avenue in White River Junction, has sold the property to an entity named PRM Auto/White River Junction LLC for $12.5 million, according to Town of Hartford assessment records.

That’s a huge jump from the $9.5 million the parcel sold for just four years ago.

Massachusetts-based Prime Auto bought the Subaru franchise, formerly known as The Car Store, and moved the dealership from Norwich to a new $4 million facility on Sykes Mountain Avenue in 2018. The land originally was part of the huge Valley Land Corp. tract that was sold off in recent years.

The identity of the buyer is shielded behind the LLC, but the manager of PRM Auto/White River Junction LCC is listed as Louis F. Karger, according to corporation division filings with the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office.

Karger is the founder and managing director of Panther Residential Management, a Boston-based private equity real estate firm specializing in multifamily communities in the Southeast.

Hartford’s assessment records show how development of the 8-acre lot on Sykes Mountain Avenue has caused the value of the parcel to skyrocket in just five years.

Valley Land Corp. initially sold the parcel to former Subaru and Car Store owner Richard MacLeay for $1.5 million in 2018. MacLeay then sold the property 18 months later to Prime Auto for $3 million.

The property is now assessed at $4.26 million by the town.

Neither Karger nor Prime Auto CEO David Rosenberg responded to an email for comment.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

Correction

Randy White is the owner of Farmer’s Table Cafe in Grantha m. His name was incorrect in an earlier version of this column.




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