When the Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen opens at 47 North Main Street in Barre in late October or early November, it will be the result of decades of planning. Local natives Keith Paxman and Rich McSheffrey, best friends since grade school, both grew up to be restaurateurs. Paxman worked in fine-dining establishments on St. John and Martha’s Vineyard before opening Warren’s the Common Man, which he sold last year. McSheffrey was more interested in the pub world, working as general manager for the 13-location British Beer Company chain and as owner of an upscale Massachusetts pizzeria.
Now the friends are combining their skills for the joint venture they’ve always wanted. And the resto’s name doesn’t just reflect the fact that it’s a stone building on a corner, says McSheffrey. “We want to be a cornerstone of the community — really involved in the front lines of bringing Barre back to the Barre our parents remember,” he says.
The pair hopes to appeal to both blue- and white-collar residents with a wide range of beers and foods to suit every palate. Twenty-eight beers on tap will include selections from Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead Brewery, as well as other hard-to-find cult beers from within and outside Vermont, and boutique wines. But there will be mass-produced suds, too. “We’re going to feature the best possible beers we can get our hands on, as well as what our clientele wants,” says McSheffrey. “We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves. Our whole thing is [about] being approachable.”
That philosophy extends to the kitchen. New England Culinary Institute-educated executive chef Jesse LeClair recently cooked at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta but also has experience cooking in pubs. Paxman calls Cornerstone’s cuisine “modern American pub with an upscale twist.” Though a menu hasn’t been assembled yet, the owners hint at a concise mix of dishes that will include burgers, sandwiches and pizzas.
Whatever the food turns out to be, it will be tailored to suit the demands of the residents of the revitalized Barre. “It would be great to be part of rebuilding the community one pint at a time,” says McSheffrey.