Flood warnings may have canceled a Charlotte Planning Commission site visit to the corner of Route 7 and Church Hill Road last week, but a public event by Rise ‘n Shine Farms heralding plans for the property went on.
A steady flow of visitors stopped in at the former gas station at 3171 Ethan Allen Highway on June 20 and listened to Peter Carreiro discuss his plans to establish a farm stand and creamery there.
Later that night, he shared those plans at the Charlotte Planning Commission meeting.
Carreiro plans to tear out the asphalt of the old gas station, Bingo hall and creemee stand and plant grass. If approved, he won’t tear down the old buildings, he said, he’ll redesign the exteriors with wood siding to look like barns and agricultural buildings in harmony with his return to a more agricultural setting for the site.
“I’m going to try to keep it green with light-footed animals like sheep, goats and ducks,” Carreiro said.
He will have picnic tables so that families who stop to shop for vegetables and other agricultural products will have a place to spend some time while they watch the animals and eat a creemee.
“We could hold events here,” he said.
He may have more farm and food events like the kickoff event but with additional vendors and food trucks during construction, and again after Rise ‘n Shine Farms is up and running.
A lot with lots of memories
Carreiro already owned the property behind the 3-acre corner lot where he has run Rise ‘n Shine since 1990, delivering milk, eggs and around 200 other grocery products to homes in Charlotte, Shelburne, South Burlington, Williston, Burlington, Essex Junction, Essex Town and parts of Westford, Colchester, Jericho and Richmond.
Some of the Rise ‘n Shine Farms vendors who were at the June 20 event selling their products included Half Baked Pizzas, Shakey Ground Farms, Unity Farm and Live Young Kitchen.
When Carreiro originally announced that he was expanding his business, he had planned to have it classified as an agricultural project, which would have avoided permitting for the project. During the year that he has negotiated to acquire the property, Carreiro said he saw 69 dairy farms go out of business in Vermont. And in order to be classified as an agricultural project, 51 percent of what Rise ‘n Shine Farms sold would have had to be products that the business produced. This would have meant mostly milk and other dairy products.
Now, the project will be classified as commercial farm stand, which means Carreiro will get other local farmers involved, but he has to go through the permitting process. That is why there had been a site visit planned and why Carreiro appeared before the planning commission that night.
Kaci Pierce attended the event with her 15-month-old son Wesley Pierce. She has fond memories of working at the creemee stand on the property for her grandmother Helena Spear
when she was young.
“I went from a Spear to Pierce,” she joked, but added on somber note, “It was hard the day they took the signs down.”
“A big vacuum was created when the creemee stand shut down,” Tory Federica said, “and then the gas station.”
He had been part of a committee that had worked on getting a place started called the Charlotte Cafe to fill that void.
Federica said he was excited about Carreiro’s plan because it would provide a place where new people to the area could go, meet their neighbors and make contacts with each other.
Carreiro hopes to lease part of the building on the south end of the property to someone who would run a snack bar where the old snack bar was. That building is large enough that it could also eventually be a bakery/cafe, he said. Carreiro was asking people at his kickoff event to fill out slips of paper with suggestions for what they’d like to see there and the response was heavily tilted in favor of a bakery/cafe. He said this might be a possibility.
Federica said residents are excited about Carreiro’s plans.
“This is creating energy in the community,” he said.
“We want to do whatever we can do to help local producers,” Carreiro replied.
He initially plans for 10 vendors at his farm stand, but that could expand to 20. Carreiro thinks that the market is there because 15,000 cars go by the corner on Route 7 every day.
“Charlotte could be a destination,” he said.
Carreiro said he will install roof solar panels that will provide 70-80 percent of the electricity he is currently using. The demands of running refrigeration and recharging delivery trucks means his current electric bill runs about $1,000 a month.
Helena Spear attended Thursday’s event and made creemees just like in the old days. Later talking by phone, she gave the project her seal of approval.
“It’s a great adventure,” she said.