Sweet news for Sugar Loaf: Barnsider reopening in the works

Times Herald-Record |

--SUGAR LOAF -- For merchants in this crafts village, the Barnsider restaurant, a fixture in the hamlet for 35 years, was family. When it closed two years ago, it was like losing a family member.

As Rachel Bertoni, vice president of the Sugar Loaf Chamber of Commerce, who has run her jewelry store in the hamlet for 18 years, put it, "I felt like our momma was gone."

Along with the Barnsider closing, the crafts village has been suffering through slow times at the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center. Performances have been few and far between. On Saturday, yellow sawhorses blocked the parking lot.

But on Saturday, Sugar Loaf was buzzing with the news that a new owner has taken over the Barnsider building at 1372 Kings Highway. Restoration work has been going on for about a month. Merchants are expecting a spring opening.

"I'm so excited about the reopening," said Kat Parrella, who runs Merrily Paper Boutique, a stationery, card and gift shop at 1375 Kings Highway, across the street from the Barnsider. "I hope it brings people back to Sugar Loaf."

"Sugar Loaf has been taking a little nap. Now it's rallying its energy," said Sugar Loaf chamber President Melissa Somma, who runs LightClub Curiosity Shoppe, a metaphysical products and healing store at 1379 Kings Highway.

Somma, Parrella, Chester Supervisor Alex Jamieson and the construction crew doing the renovation at the Barnsider building all confirmed that the new owners are Marco Solari and his wife, Heather, who run the Copper Bottom Restaurant in Florida. Solari declined to speak to a Times Herald-Record reporter despite repeated telephone messages, but he posted a message on Facebook saying that an upgraded Barnsider will "hopefully" be opening in the spring. "Stay tuned for updates," the posting says.

The Facebook posting got hundreds of hits, Jamieson said, and there's been intense interest in Chester. "The community needs it," he said. The Barnsider is due to appear before the Planning Board on Wednesday to talk about signs, a town planning official said.

On Wednesday, a crew from JPO Construction Inc. of Warwick was working on the barroom at the Barnsider building. John O'Rourke, who heads JPO, said they're expanding the barroom, upgrading the kitchen and adding handicapped accessibility, among other improvements at the 4,000-square-foot building. "I grew up in this town," O'Rourke said. "I want to see this place come back to life."

On Saturday, shopper Kiki Plevritis of Monroe, who's been coming to Sugar Loaf for 18 years, talked about how much she's missed the Barnsider. "It's got such a genuine feel," she said, looking up at the rustic, brown building. "It really used to bring the community together."



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