Former cafe now home to four businesses

Village building has gone through several incarnations

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The building that housed a long-defunct cafe in Williston Village is now home to four small businesses.

Hinesburg resident Darrel Depot purchased the former Bread & Beyond building at 7808 Williston Road. It will provide space for Purofirst, a business he owns that repairs fire- and water-damaged buildings.

Depot said he was looking for office space after his lease expired and the building was a bargain. He bought it for $412,500, closing the sale on Nov. 16 and moving in at the beginning of December.

It had been years since a business occupied the roughly 4,500-square-foot structure. It needed a new roof and fresh paint. A plumbing leak had caused water damage.

“They really let it go for a very good price,” Depot said. “And the condition of the building might have scared some people.”

But Depot knew how to assess and fix damaged buildings.

“That’s my business,” he said, estimating it cost about $15,000 to make the repairs.

Three tenants have moved into the building over the past few weeks. They are:

Elder/Simays Construction. The company is a general contractor that has worked with Purofirst on building repairs.

Jonathan Milne, a financial consultant and Williston resident. Milne said he previously worked for another financial services company but wanted to open his own office.

Nanci Smith, a family law attorney who moved her practice from Montpelier. She has more than 13 years of experience in civil, criminal and family court experience, according to her Web site.

Purofirst is a national franchise headquartered in Florida. Franchisees like Depot independently own and operate their businesses.

Depot formerly worked as a consultant to paper and steel mills. But he tired of the travel associated with the work and wanted a job that would keep him close to his wife and two children. He opened Purofirst in June 2005.

He and his employees are experts in cleaning up messes caused by fires, floods, plumbing leaks and malfunctioning furnaces.

A common job this time of year is repairing damage caused by frozen pipes. Depot said he is currently working on several structures where pipes have broken.

When he started looking for a new location, Depot said he intended to lease space. But he said buying the Williston building ending up making financial sense.

The two-story structure just west of Williston Town Hall has an interesting history.

It was built in 1992 by Louise Ransom, former publisher of the Williston Observer, which was then known as the Williston Whistle. The building was designed to mimic an historic home, with an irregular roof line and wood floors.

Various tenants have occupied the building, including the newspaper and most recently an insurance office.

But longtime residents may best remember it as the location of the Williston Community Coffeehouse and a cafe named Bread & Beyond.

During its 1990s heyday, the coffeehouse hosted musical performances, meetings and classes. When it went out of business, Bread & Beyond took over the space, and for a time it continued to serve as an unofficial community center.

The business was bought in 1999 by Burlington resident Christian Diamandis. He cut staff and discontinued dinner service to keep the business afloat. But Diamandis closed the restaurant for good in 2001.

The building was eventually sold to ASM LLC, a trust whose beneficiary was apparently a young man by the name of Aubrey MacFarland.

Kathy Smardon, assistant town clerk, said MacFarland lived in the building off and on. She remembers him coming in to pay his property taxes and water bills.

But MacFarland died in a motorcycle accident some time ago, according to Smardon. The building was again put on the market.

Town officials said they are pleased the building is now occupied. Without a steady tenant and regular maintenance, the building had become an eyesore in the heart of the historic district.

“As you know, it was getting to be a derelict old building, so we’re glad to see it has changed hands,” said D.K. Johnston, Williston’s zoning administrator.

“It definitely looked like it had been abandoned,” Smardon said. “Good grief, the grass looked waist high.”

The building is an ideal location for its new tenants, Depot said, noting that the homey atmosphere gives it a unique flavor.

"It’s not a sterile office space," he said. "It’s more like a house."