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Real Estate for the Soul

Side Dishes: A coup for Stone Soup


Published March 14, 2007 at 11:05 p.m.

Faith overcomes famine in the folk tale known as "Stone Soup." A wandering soldier comes into a village - somewhere in Eastern Europe - with a cauldron full of water, an ordinary-looking stone and the promise that the combination can prove nourishing. Believing in the soldier's vision, starving citizens contribute the scraps of food they've been hoarding. The result is a savory stew that feeds the whole town.

Following a similar story line, the proprietors of Burlington's Stone Soup rounded up a group of local investors to buy the College Street building that houses their café, as well as Three Needs, Auggie's Island Grill, H&R Block and Pure Pop. Last Thursday, photographer Irv Abrams sold the place to Stone Soup proprietors Avery Rifkin and Tim Elliott, builder David Farrington and his architect wife Brenda Alvarez and Select Design partners Kevin Owens and Jeff Beer. The price was right: $1 million.

"Buy it local, keep it local" is how Farrington characterizes the spirit of the deal, which he says was motivated by Rifkin's desire to "secure his place in the building. There're a lot of big players in town who could swoop in and buy it. Then it's a matter of time before everybody on that first floor is out on the street." Neither Rifkin nor Elliott would comment for this story.

Decades of low rent and minimal maintenance have made the building at the corner of College and South Winooski a rare refuge for struggling nonprofits - especially on the higher floors. There are no immediate plans to change that, according to Farrington, who is in the construction business. However, there's definitely room for physical improvement. "I don't know what we're going to do there yet," he says, "but it's going to be better than what's there."

Abrams once owned a number of buildings in the downtown area, but he has been selling them off one by one since he was busted for inappropriately photographing underage girls.

"It was a long time coming," says Farrington. Guess some real-estate deals, like soup, get better the longer they're cooked.

Speaking of Food, side Dishes