BRATTLEBORO — River Garden Marketplace opened this month, turning heads traveling down Main Street.
“I think this is a prime opportunity here to bring back the magic of the community space that used to exist here,” General Manager Nathan Scarborough said. “I think that co-op feel you’re really going to be able to get as soon as you get into the space, with the market always changing out and bringing in fresh new artists, crafters and regional folks. The food also is going to see that sort of transition along with the beers.”
The new venture comes after the owners have run successful local businesses for years, starting with the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery about a decade ago, and now including Kampfires Campground and Inn in Dummerston and the Rollin’ Stone food truck. They bought the River Garden from the Strolling of the Heifers in July.
“I’m excited,” said Amy Brady, co-owner. “I think it’s going to be really great for the town. It’s such a focal point for downtown. It will help keep things active down here and keep people coming back.”
Brady said a bar menu will feature six to eight “small plate items” available all the time, and a rotating food menu will have about five selections designed by different chefs. She anticipates current employees at the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery will be given an opportunity first for the rotating menu, then food truck operators might be approached in the colder months when they might need to close down.
“The goal would be for them to provide us with the recipes and then we would execute them,” she said. “Not every chef is going to be OK with that. So if we have to, we might have to put them on staff for a month and have them run the kitchen.”
For beer, the focus is on those made in Vermont and New England. The bar also has selections from “great breweries and imports,” Brady said, counting 20 beers on draft and more than 100 bottles and cans.
Other options include wine, seltzer, ciders and a variety of malt beverages. A soda machine allows for flavors to be added to a drink.
For the first time at one of the owners’ properties, macro/non-craft beers such as Budweiser, Coors and Miller will be available.
“We figured if you don’t have the option to grab a Jack and Coke, we don’t want to lose that customer,” Brady said. “And for the first time at one of our properties, we will have TVs for sporting events and a projector set up also for sporting events. We’re looking into a movie license for movie nights.”
Similar to the Mug Club at the Whetstone Station, the River Garden will have Bottle and Can Club. Customers earn a customized tumbler after purchasing 99 beers.
Monday nights are designated for open mic hosted by Kevin Parry, and efforts are underway to find a pianist who will take requests from the bar. Mando X will be performing for the grand opening celebration Friday during Gallery Walk.
A decibel counter on a wall measures the loudness of sound. David Hiler, co-owner of River Garden Marketplace, joked that it can be used to determine “the winner of open mic.”
Previously the space was owned by the Strolling of the Heifers, which would host afternoon discussions where attendees would bring their own lunch and display artwork. Hiler said the idea now is that people come in for a beer or lunch, then stay for an event or crafts.
Hand Built Market, whose owner has been participating in Main Street Flea at Gallery Walk, leases the space where crafts are shown and sold. Like the bar and restaurant, it’s open noon to 8 p.m. Thursday through Monday.
“It’s nice exposure, and I really love that she has where everyone is from,” Brady said of KariLyn McLellan, who runs Hand Built Market, which is expected to have between eight and 10 vendors at a given time. “She likes to focus on the fact that this is all local.”
McLellan described Hand Built Market as “a maker’s market featuring unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade items from local makers, fine artists and vintage curators.”
“We focus on providing a space for both newer and more experienced artists and makers,” McLellan said. “A place where art that might not fit in a gallery setting feels right at home.”
McLellan noted the space has an expansive skylight roof, patio seating with views of Mount Wantastiquet and the Connecticut River, and a glass fronted view of Main Street.
Renovations were handled by local contractors Brunelle & Son Construction, King Electric and Garland Plumbing. The space has all new lighting, a bar, a counter for sales from the craft market and a new walk-in cooler.
Downstairs renovations were designed with an eye toward hosting events such as anniversaries, baby showers, rehearsal dinners and more. Brady expects to start booking events by December.
This article was updated at 9:43 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, to accurately define the relationship between McLellan and Main Street Flea.