Hardwick, News

Hamels Sell Renovated 1876 Landmark, Main Street Cannabis Shop Cleared to Open

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2020 file photo by Vanessa Fournier
The Hardwick Inn was bought by Lise and Larry Hamel of Cornerstone Restoration in 2009. They had many independent businesses who rented space in the building and several were not fully reopened in 2020 under state COVID-19 restrictions at the time.

HARDWICK — The 1876 Hardwick Inn, painted in yellow with white trim and prominently located at the 90-degree bend in Route 15 turning from Main Street to Mill Street, is both the most recognizable and largest building in Hardwick’s central downtown. The historic property was sold on March 8 by Cornerstone Restoration LLC owners Larry and Lise Hamel. Larry Hamel says the building was sold to Clay Hill Apartments, owned by Levi Bourne, of Walden who works at Bourne’s Energy.

Main Street Cannabis Shop Cleared to Open

HARDWICK – For many months the window of the Hardwick Inn’s now-vacant retail space has announced a retail cannabis shop is coming soon. Larry Hamel, who recently sold the inn, reports that The Cannabis Shop owner, Monique Brochu, has been expecting to open her doors “any day now” for quite some time, but that state regulation has created difficult hurdles to making that happen.The Hardwick Select Board considered an item to approve three cannabis licenses at a special meeting on January 10 this year. Two renewals for indoor cultivator licenses passed quickly. Consideration of a new license for Mill 47 LLC dba The Cannabis Shop brought discussion, where the minutes report, “Monique Brochu was present to discuss her request for a new retailer license. Her attorney, David Silberman, was also present. Eric (Remick) asked Mr. Silberman why this location is not considered to be within 500 feet of the schools. He explained that the rule was written to say 500 feet AND an abutting property, instead of saying ‘or.’ Therefore, this location does not violate that rule.

“The Town Manager mentioned that in the past there have been complaints about people hanging out smoking tobacco and cannabis in the front of that building and he does not want to see that become a problem for the business owner. Monique asked for that data to be shared with her so she can ensure that there is not an increase in these complaints once she opens. She anticipates opening sometime in February, but possibly not until March.”

The select board then voted to approve the retail cannabis license for Mill 47 LLC dba The Cannabis Shop.

The Vermont Cannabis Control Board (CCB) meeting agenda for February 24 lists the company under staff recommendations for initial licensure. Minutes of that meeting record, “Chair Pepper entertains a motion to adopt the register and staff recommendations as presented. Vote is 3-0-0 to adopt the register.”

Those minutes suggest that a license for the retailer was approved, but as of March 7 the CCB doesn’t list either name as a licensed retailer. The owner has not been reached for further comment.

Speaking on March 16, Larry Hamel said he was ready to take some time off after 15 years devoted to restoration and management of the building. A building of the inn’s size required him to stay on top of regular maintenance and always be nearby to take care of urgent issues.

He felt it was time to take a step back and have some time off. The Hamels had been looking to sell the property for over a year.

Larry Hamel told the Gazette he can’t say what the new owner will do. He does offer that the building was fully rented when it was sold and that the new management should be able to continue without significant changes.

The Clay Hill web site offers no phone number and attempts to contact the company in other ways have not yet succeeded. The Gazette has reached out to several of the building’s tenants, none of whom had yet heard from the new owner.

A 2011 North Star Monthly article reported on Larry Hamel’s efforts to restore the building that he purchased in April 2009 for $150,000. A real estate listing for the sale of the inn put the last asking price at $850,000.

In the North Star article Larry Hamel tells of spending his first year searching for funding to restore the building while “dismantling practically every wall down to the studs.” “He also noticed a 13-inch difference in the upper level between the highest point and lowest point. He had a serious foundation problem that needed to be addressed. Using 30 20-ton jacks, he raised the back of the building 10 inches and then went to work in the basement shoring up support beams and floor joists.”

Hamel “was finally able to secure enough money to put his plans into motion almost a year after he closed on the property. . . He had to mortgage his house to make the deal work and now, more than a year later, he says he has over $1 million invested in the project… “Yep, last year my wife and I became millionaires,” he said with a grin. “We now owe more than $1 million.”

That North Star article reports, “Despite the huge capital investment, Larry said the building has turned the corner and “is covering its expenses.”

Real estate listings show that the building encloses 14,801 square feet and suggest the new owner might “Place one or two of your own businesses on site and manage the three retail spaces plus 17 offices on the upper two floors,” and that the building features “two sets of wide wooden staircases, two metal ceiling areas, and a cupola that serves as a skylight on the third floor. The interior walls are now sheetrocked, insulated, and rewired, with a sprinkler system throughout. Five half baths serve the tenants and their clients. Two showers are within the Hardwick Fitness Center. An elevator serves all four floors including the basement. The oil hot water boiler has 20 zones and is supplemented on the first floor with an oil hot air furnace.”

Hamel says he’s now sold all of his properties in Hardwick and only owns his own home here now. He says that his frustration with Vermont’s high taxes and increasing regulation is leading him to consider moving out of the state.

For the record, Levi Bourne of Walden is the owner of Clay Hill Apartments and works at Bourne’s Energy. The original article in the March 20 Gazette incorrectly reported Bourne’s company name and relationship to Bourne’s Energy.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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