The former Sabby’s building has a new owner who intends to finish renovations but does not plan to operate it himself.
J.R. Bullock, co-owner of Olivia’s Market, closed on the long-vacant downtown restaurant for $200,000 earlier this month and plans to complete the stalled renovations within a month’s time.
“My goal is to get it sheetrocked, taped, primed and put a ‘For sale or rent’ sign in the window,” Bullock said as contractors around him worked on the building’s interior Wednesday.
The former restaurant at 31 Center St. changed hands a few times during its existence.
The last owners to run the restaurant bought the building in 2011 but lost it in a foreclosure in 2013. Ron Amadeo, owner of the Phat Italian Deli in Killington, bought the building in 2014, placed a sign in the window that said the building would soon hold a Rutland location for the deli and undertook an extensive renovation effort.
However, in a matter of months, the effort ground to a halt and the sign disappeared.
Downtown Rutland Partnership Executive Director Steve Peters said the spot was one of the longest vacant storefronts downtown and that it was exciting to see it back in play.
“It did require a lot of work and an investment,” he said. “It takes the right type of person to make that commitment.”
Bullock said he did not know all the details of how Amadeo’s plans for the building were derailed, but he understood Amadeo kept finding more that needed fixing.
“There were structural issues, and the state made him address those,” he said.
Bullock said he was in talks about buying a different property from Amadeo when the Sabby’s location came up, so he decided to check it out.
“I’d heard the rumors, and I was curious,” Bullock said. “It was actually shocking how well the work was done here. It’s a new building, and it’s probably the most structurally sound building in Rutland. ... Now the whole second floor is new.”
Bullock said he found the building with two new furnaces, a new walk-in cooler, new plumbing and electrical work, fresh cement in the basement and steel reinforcement in the frame. He also said the wall studs were more closely spaced than in typical construction, making for a sturdier building.
Bullock said he sealed the entire perimeter of the building — “It’s no secret there’s a rodent problem downtown,” he said — and expanded the kitchen space. He said he envisions a bar downstairs and a quieter dining area upstairs but will hold off on finishing the building until he knows what sort of a tenant or buyer he has for it.
Bullock said he has already had interest.
“The Paramount across the street is a nice draw,” he said. “There’s still a plan for a hotel to be downtown. ... Downtown’s making a nice comeback.”