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Grisette is coming to 401 N. 27th St late summer/Fall 2018! Tres bon!

This article was co-authored with Eric Huffstutler. Image taken from the Historic Richmond website. [sep] The Wills Grocery Store on the corner of N. 27th and E. Marshall is in the process of being leased and converted to Grisette, a southern French/American soul-food eatery that’s being touted as more of a neighborhood local. It  will sit directly across the street from both Dutch & Co and WPA BakeryChef Donnie Glass and Andy McClure are the project developers. Both are very aware of the history of 401 N. 27th Street and have a commitment to do right by the building. “This building has been occupied by countless ideas, concepts and businesses” and they’re correct, this building was originally a Grocery Store,  then Dry Goods, then a Fish and Seafood Market,  then Electronics Sales (Radios mainly), a Grocery Store (again), and then, a Laundromat from 1947 on. Built in 1815, 401 is the oldest standing commercial building in Richmond. (1) If you get a chance, be sure to check out this comprehensive article by Eric H on the building’s history. Some images of 401 throughout the years:
1956 - Edith Shelton (The Valentine)1978 - via VCU
Let’s get into it. Who are the developers? Donnie and Andy operate a small business group that operates several other restaurants within historic buildings in Charlottesville, including The Virginian, Tavern and Grocery and Citizen Burger Bar. What kind of restaurant are they proposing? The restaurant they plan to open “will be modeled after one of the great traditions of Southern French cuisine- the humble Bouchon”.
As for our style of cuisine, we’re aiming at something you guys might really enjoy- southern French/American soul-food. So much of this restaurant comes down what we as owners and operators would like to eat- something simple, delicious, and affordable. We plan to have a nice wood-fired rotisserie for chickens and simple daily plates of Appalachian and Chesapeake driven food. We also would like our prices to be a bit lower than the rest of the neighborhood, making ourselves less of a “special occasion” restaurant, and more of a neighborhood local. While we pride ourselves on our professional work as cooks and service staff, we don’t take ourselves so seriously as to not keep true, relaxed hospitality at the forefront of our operation.
What is the timeline? At this moment, the group is in the request and planning stages. They are currently in the permitting phase and looking at a Late Summer opening, for now. As the project develops, we’ll follow up. What about parking? The developers are only looking at seating for around 40 dining patrons and betting on the bus stop that is right in front of the building to bring in customers, as well as other alternative modes of transportation. Chef Glass says they are well aware of the crowded parking conditions and have been reaching out to other nearby businesses and locals to get a feel for how they’ll handle it. One of the locals reported that a parking petition is in the works by a neighbor. We’ll have more on that if/when it becomes available and report on its progress. What is a Certificate of Appropriateness? When an owner of a local historic landmark or a resident within a historic district wants to make changes to the exterior of his or her property, a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is needed in addition to other permits that may apply. – CAR Submission Application Here are the changes that the developers want to make:
  • “We plan to mend her as we would our own home- pull the weeds, fix it if it’s broken and take a lot of pride in how she looks”
  • Repairing and patching of the stucco that covers the original brick
  • Repairing the doors and windows- in some cases match the historical design intent
  • Molding and trim work of damaged portions
  • Applying new neutral paint
  • Minimal signage in the form of a “narrow protrusion”
[sep] So here we have it folks, a relaxed new restaurant with a distinctly different vibe. This is an exciting new venture for Marshall St as it continues its boom with new eateries like the upcoming Alewife and further down the street, GRACE.

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51 comments

Chelsea Harnish
Chelsea Harnish 05/10/2018 at 6:15 AM

This is terrific news to wake up to!!!

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Christina Pham
Christina Pham 05/10/2018 at 6:25 AM

Another restaurant within walking distance!

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HW 05/10/2018 at 6:50 AM

Great news and looking forward to seeing them meet and beat that timeline. A brief comment about parking. Parking cannot be the enemy of the growth in the neighborhood, nor should parking directly outside your planned destination be the goal. Eyes on the street and the foot traffic of patrons and residents moving about keeps petty crime at bay and adds a vibrancy that i welcome.

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Jessica Bareford
Jessica Bareford 05/10/2018 at 7:20 AM

4 blocks! French/southern soul?! Yes yes yes

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David Seibert
David Seibert 05/10/2018 at 7:21 AM

Wow. That would be amazing.

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Lydia Marek
Lydia Marek 05/10/2018 at 7:30 AM

How great is this??!!

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Kelly Fitzgerald
Kelly Fitzgerald 05/10/2018 at 8:13 AM

As a resident of 27th and Marshall I would encourage the author of this piece to broaden your sources and not only rely on the input and opinions of Eric S. Huffstutler. The other residents on our block do not share his opinion of the parking situation nor do we plan on signing any petition. We have a lovely relationship with Dutch & Co. and all of our other neighbors who are always open and accommodating if we have any issue. We will of course hope to work with this new establishment regarding parking. Again, please reach out to more people next time. There are portions of this article that are incorrect.

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ray 05/10/2018 at 8:20 AM

Love it!

That said, I think a summer/fall 2020 — yes 2020 — opening is a realistic opening date; 2018 will simply be impossible. I mean, this building needs EVERYTHING done to it.

What do you think, Eric?

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SA Chaplin 05/10/2018 at 8:38 AM

To add to Ray’s comment: When it comes to renovating, count on “the rule of three:” Make your best estimates, then multiply by three: It will take three times the time, three times the money and will be three times the trouble.

Still, go for it!

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Eric S. Huffstutler
Eric S. Huffstutler 05/10/2018 at 8:48 AM

Kelly, the parking situation has always been a concern and talked about many times on CHPN over the years. I have been in contact with the people at Grisette and they too understand the parking situation and are hoping patrons will use the bus and other modes of transportation to visit them. But, the petition was NOT mine and not signing it but is something presented to me by a neighbor on the block.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 05/10/2018 at 9:06 AM

@7 Kelly Fitzgerald… what parts are “incorrect”? Everything mentioned are direct from email correspondences I have had with Donnie Glass and other parts are from my own historical article from October 2013 in the CHA Newsletter. The rest was from the actual CAR applications submitted by Glass and McClure and websites.

As far as parking, they are aware of it and reaching out to the community and betting on people using the bus (there is a stop in front of the building) and other modes of transportation, including walking, to visit their establishment and the available parking spaces grandfathered in.

As for a “petition”, there is one in “draft” by a resident on the block and is NOT mine, I had nothing to do with it, and not signing it either. So, please get your facts straight as well before trying to discredit someone.

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HW 05/10/2018 at 9:25 AM

@10 is this the parking petition that was making the rounds late last year or a new one. If know, what is the scope of this one? Additionally, what is the nature of the parking concern?

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Cynthia Shelhorse
Cynthia Shelhorse 05/10/2018 at 9:49 AM

Trying to wrap my brain around a “southern French/American soul-food eatery” … whatever, I’m coming 🙂

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Isabella Denicourt
Isabella Denicourt 05/10/2018 at 9:56 AM

@Cynthia But of course you are!

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Jason S 05/10/2018 at 9:58 AM

Eric Huffstutler, of shoot-teenagers-with-a-bullet-if-your-window-gets-broken fame. It’s surprising to see you take such a laissez-faire approach to parking and density after years of hardcore “not in my backyard” positions.

This is an informative read though, I’ll give you that.

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E 05/10/2018 at 10:21 AM

YAY!!!!!

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Jessica Wilson
Jessica Wilson 05/10/2018 at 10:28 AM

Yassss !! Very mouth looking forward to this !!!

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Eric S. Huffstutler 05/10/2018 at 11:37 AM

@15 Jason S… my position about parking is not just my concern singularly and if you look at the archives, dates back well before even when Dutch & Co or WPA came into the picture. It is strictly a factual concern and even gave measurements in one post of the average length of a car and the width of a house property line… and how the two correlate. You end up in the negative even without a business on the street. Then you have people who are aged or handicapped who rely on close parking, especially in inclement weather. Those were the things I had brought up in the past.

The Grisette people are trying to make every attempt to make their relationship with the neighborhood, a positive one and glad on several levels that they are coming and the building is being saved. They are not new to the business and already own several successful restaurants.

As far as the “petition” confusion and my previous post that seems out of context, the entry about one circulating was removed by CHPN because of complaints and then, replaced after reconsideration that it was NOT me who is involved, but a neighbor and was only a statement.

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Jason s 05/10/2018 at 12:02 PM

I hear ya, Eric. and I commend you for your informative and well written piece. I’m very excited for this restaurant and the parking will work itself out. The business is great for the community.

I’m just giving you a hard time for past dustups. This was an informative read.

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Jason s 05/10/2018 at 12:07 PM

I wish I’d originally shared more of the excitement I’m feeling about Donny and Andy bringing their awesome idea to Church Hill. This is really, really wonderful!

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ChimboPark 05/10/2018 at 12:26 PM

To be fair on the timeline if you peak inside it looks like some work has already started or has been completed in the last few years. Last time I walked by I believe it looked like new HVAC fixtures were installed but I may be mistaken.

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ChimboPark 05/10/2018 at 12:27 PM

Also what a fabulous restaurant group to welcome to the neighborhood, the Virginian and Citizen are top notch!

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Eric S. Huffstutler 05/10/2018 at 12:53 PM

@8 ray… Oh yes… there is plenty to be done with the building as it still remains a gutted shell left by a previous owner, since 2004. A few structural weaknesses need to be addressed. I knew it would always take deep pockets to fix it up and this restaurant group, who has several successful ones, just may be those pockets. My concern is… that they are only leasing the building and so, the building owners (there are trusts involved per deeds I have copies of) is benefiting from this venture where they had refused to do anything with it the past 14-years and, externally, will look the same as it is now sans external windows (except the wooden section). In my article on the 401 building from 2013, I mentioned how the original brick building’s entrance faced 27th Street and there were arched windows on both levels of the Marshall Street side, which were bricked in when the entrance was moved to the corner. There are windows that can be opened up if the stucco is removed. But that was done by the year 1900. There are no known 19th-century pictures and can only go by the physical evidence seen on the exposed brick internal walls (I have photos of). I had done a rough artist rendition several years ago, of how it looked in 1815, which may be shared here in a future article 🙂

But, since we FINALLY have a serious investor that believes in this building and its future, we ALL need to rally up and encourage them rather than scare them away with negative talk! I have a special interest because it is historically connected to our house but also, as an affordable alternative eatery with food that I am somewhat familiar with, having lived in the French Quarter of New Orleans for 5 years.

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Zachary 05/10/2018 at 1:03 PM

This is great!

Plus, I’d rather deal with parking and park a block or two away than seeing that ugly boarded up building all the time. It’s great that it might be made into something nicer. I can deal with parking, walking is good for you.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 05/10/2018 at 1:12 PM

Thanks, Jason S. 😀

@21 ChimboPark. I noticed that as well but not sure if it was the building’s owner prior to when Grisette’s contract? A catering business was leasing space for equipment storage and had not really looked inside good after they moved out when the building started showing signs of “buckling and possible leaning” and different violations that needed to be fixed per the CAR, a few months back… until news of this.

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Page Hutchinson
Page Hutchinson 05/10/2018 at 5:29 PM

Yes, it’s very exciting news!

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Eric S. Huffstutler 05/10/2018 at 9:48 PM

It appears with an advertisement for a sampling event of what the restaurant will serve, appeared in Charlottesville last September. It seems the original name for the restaurant was going to be “Bouchon Tallulah” and the menu will focus on Lyonnaise-Virginian Cuisine.

The text that went with the digital invite said:

” What’s a Bouchon? ‘Bouchons are all about crispy pig parts, oysters, carafes of Beaujolais, the tradition of very hands-on ownership, daily menus written around what’s abundant, neighborly banter, and the buzz of a busy, small, noisy restaurant,’ says Glass. ‘I love those things. I crave those things like a drug.’ ”

Donnie Glass was the chef at C’ville’s “Public Fish & Oyster” but temporarily left Virginia to come back to enter a partnership with serial restauranteur, Andy McClure.

The “Virginian Restaurant Company” restaurants include “Tavern & Grocery” listed as C’ville’s Best New Resturant in 2017; CB (Citizen Burger Bar) in several locations including here in Carytown; “The Virginian” which is C’ville’s oldest restaurant openening in 1923; “The Biltmore” which has operated for 20 years as a casual corner “Beach Bar” and serving BBQ and sandwiches on the city’s largest outdoor dining patio; “Penny Heart” – a quick lunch spot and small event venue… and, the “Lost Saint” cocktail bar in Midtown. They also own “The Draft Squad” which installs and repairs adult beverage dispensing systems – everything from 2 tap sub zero towers to custom made systems with unlimited taps.

Andy McClure, was voted No. 4 out of 40 top Power Male Business Owners And Executives In Charlottesville by “I Love Charlottesville”

Donnie Glass was also chef de Rotisseur at “The Parkside” in Providence, RI, and Chef de Partie at “Teknique” in Bedford, NH. sous chef of “The Local” in C’ville. and I believe worked at “The Ritz” at Martha’s Vinyard.

Lots of credentials!

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Eric S. Huffstutler 05/23/2018 at 1:19 PM

Anything new on this? No activity for them to be open in 3 or so months… especially with the building itself needing so much work.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 05/31/2018 at 2:35 AM

Still no updates?

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HW 05/31/2018 at 11:56 AM

@28&9, can’t you just reach out to your source for an update since you cowrote the piece?

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Eric S. Huffstutler 05/31/2018 at 12:45 PM

Would if I could but they went silent right after the post about permits. There is and have been quite a few structural issues and hope they aren’t second guessing this?

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Eric S. Huffstutler 06/08/2018 at 9:45 AM

According to the CAR, the owner nor the restaurant group has applied yet for any building permits and a month has already passed towards the late summer opening.

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ray 06/08/2018 at 12:40 PM

Like I said earlier, if it’s really going to ever happen — and, yes, I have my doubts it will — summer 2020 is far more realistic than even summer 2019, much less this year.

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crd 06/08/2018 at 3:46 PM

@32, they DID go to CAR at some point, though. Even if they haven’t applied for a building permit.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 06/09/2018 at 5:54 PM

@34 true, they did submit plans to the CAR but was told that they were aiming for a late Summer opening. The last day of Summer is August 31st, less than 3 months away. Considering we are looking at basically a brick shell which is over 200-years old. Has structural weaknesses and bad repairs as well as things that need to be up to current codes PLUS… fitting it out to be a restaurant, all within 3 months and no permits have even been applied for yet?

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ray 06/10/2018 at 5:08 PM

And, Eric, as you have mentioned previously in post #23, the owner of the building has a pretty sketchy track record.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 06/22/2018 at 7:00 PM

Things are not off to a good start for this project.

The cities property maintenance inspector said that they are monitoring the building structure while the building inspector said that the owner has been presented with violations of non permitted construction on the interior, that they noted.

I saw what looked like new permits in the window a couple of days ago but for whatever reason, the owners posted expired permits from 2016. Odd.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 07/13/2018 at 7:39 PM

Even though this seems to be a one-way conversation, I will still post what updates that I hear about which is basically… none. Another month is passing and another closer to the proposed opening date.

From what I hear, there are still no permits applied for. Paper now covers the windows so you can’t see what is going on but the city will be checking in. No one has heard a word from Donnie Glass, the chef who was going to lease the building.

I did hear that the HRF was attempting to once again obtain the building through Spot Blight procedures but engineering plans were submitted before they could get things really rolling. If this restaurant project does fall through, they will pursue it again. The HRF tried in 2010 but the city dragged their feet and the owner put that ridiculous sale price on the building. The city did do their own Fair Value assessment that ended up being about 1/4 of the asking price. That is what the city will sell it for if it does end up being seized by them.

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Liz 07/14/2018 at 8:01 AM

Eric, thank you for keeping up on this project. I appreciate the updates!

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Eric S. Huffstutler 07/14/2018 at 10:12 AM

@39
Thanks, Liz, at least someone cares 🙂

I will always keep on top as I have for nearly 20 years since the building is historically linked to our house and the oldest commercial building in Richmond. A fact that the city has cast a blind eye to over the years.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 08/14/2018 at 4:55 PM

Another month has passed. The initial proposed “end of summer” opening is upon us and yet, nothing has happened and at this point, seriously doubt it will concerning Grisette and Donnie Glass moving in. I am waiting on a couple updates and will post them here but if anyone else has any inside information, please share. Thanks.

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Annonymous 08/15/2018 at 2:25 PM

I think it is safe to assume they are probably going through City Permitting and having a snag and that is why it isn’t progressing. Their permitting office is terrible and sometimes takes MONTHS for full renovation projects, especially if there is a parking variance that needs to be approved. May want to keep that in mind.

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Kay 08/16/2018 at 8:13 PM

I sincerely doubt this will ever happen.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 08/24/2018 at 2:22 PM

Have more feelers out. An “interest” but not the owner of the building applied for a permit after an inspector visited but the result is a bit confusing. They passed the interior but not the exterior. The building is a 203-year-old brick shell and so the exterior is also the interior. And the only permit I see so far is for a barricade. Will post updates as they come in.

Donnie Glass lives locally, the person who wanted to lease the building for the restaurant but he has yet to chime in. He has been ignoring attempts by many to contact him.

The work permit doesn’t mean that the restaurant project is still alive.

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UH 08/24/2018 at 3:48 PM

Eric – for what it’s worth, I heard a while back from folks in the neighborhood that the restaurant project had fallen through.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 08/24/2018 at 5:31 PM

@42 Annonymous

Parking has always been a sore spot with residents when they compete with businesses that open up in residential areas. This is no exception since parking is already cramped. The first attempt to open this building up as a restaurant several years ago was met with restrictions requiring x-number of “off-street” parking spaces within 300 feet of the building. And there are only a couple on-street spaces available to be grandfathered in – minus the stretch that consists of the bus stop directly in front of it.

As far as permits… another sore spot when it comes to contractors and residents obtaining them. Doug Murrow, Commissioner of Buildings who headed the permits department, is no longer with the city since last week but had been with the city since 2011. I am not sure who the interim person is but I just hope they don’t simply allow lax inspections after easing up permit issuing. To let structural issues slip by is no less than letting a car with bad steering linkage pass inspection. It is just a matter of time before a disaster happens.

The HRF did tell me today that Donnie Glass is still interested in moving in. Not sure who their source is but do find it odd that he is ignoring answering questions of the leaders of the community he will serve with his restaurant. Not off to a very good start with community relations but hope he will chime in soon.

Permits have been applied for but not approved yet.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 08/24/2018 at 6:43 PM

For those who live in the immediate vicinity, this may give some insight about what to expect from the owner, crew, and its patrons. This is on the Grisette webpage that popped up earlier this month.

Concerning the Crew: “We don’t care much for titles, think little of “the rules”, and we’re a little loud.”

“Our food is unfussy, to be eaten with good drink, and enjoyed in chatty company.”

So, is this a precursor about it being a noisy haunt with even noisier patrons falling out of it? Let’s hope not.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 08/24/2018 at 9:41 PM

@45 UH… All indications seem to point in that direction.

I think the Grisette group has true intentions but when the building owner was up to their old tricks trying to buck the system with codes and permits, things started going sour.

But then I hear mixed signals today that there are permits applied for. A barricade permit was issued on Monday and the HRF says that Glass is still interested in opening up a restaurant (seeking source). Just that the vision seems to have changed according to the website that showed up a couple of weeks ago. Moving from a posher French-American bistro restaurant to more of a watering hole with simpler food like oysters and sandwiches, with liquor and beer. I posted their self-admitted nonchalant attitude from that site and it sounds like it will be a bit of a rowdy place… not a good fit for a business in the middle of a residential area. I hope that I am wrong, and we may not have anything to worry about anyway.

if anyone else can add to the status? Thanks.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 08/29/2018 at 3:51 PM

I finally heard from Donnie Glass (Grisette). It is still on but as suspected, the building and its owner(s) are basically the holdup. The silence was part of his being busy but also on a long needed vacation. He hasn’t had anything to report since everything concerning the building is stalled for now but promised to keep me up to date 🙂

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dontmincewords 09/17/2018 at 7:20 AM Reply
Eric S. Huffstutler 09/17/2018 at 4:34 PM

@50 dontmincewords

Wow, what a bummer but, once again, the owners of the old 401 (Wills Grocery Store) building has drug their feet as well as not following the rules and now, this historic building will remain empty. They did get a permit for “light renovation” but what can you do with the $1,000 they list? Can barely by paint when, there is load bearing structural issues.

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