Sweetheart in Shelburne Falls seeks tax break for brewery, brew pub

  • A new stone wall has been built in front of the former Sweetheart Restaurant in Shelburne Falls. RECORDER STAFF/PAUL FRANZ

For the Gazette
Published: 2/19/2017 4:52:35 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — For the past year, residents have watched as improvements have been made to the former, iconic Sweetheart Restaurant, the purveyor of locally made “Sweetheart” maple cream candies and the site of a popular restaurant and tea room in the heyday of automobile tourism.

Now the owners are coming back to Shelburne town officials with a proposal to open a brewery and brew pub in the renovated building on the Mohawk Trail.

Earlier this month, Shelburne selectmen received a letter of intent from lawyer Kevin D. Parsons, letting them know that the owners of Sweetheart Realty LLC are interested in pursuing an application for a tax break through the Massachusetts Economic Development Incentive Program. It would be comparable to the 10-year tax break that was approved last spring for William Green’s Shelburne Falls Woodshop, now being constructed on Main Street (Route 112 North), across from the Ashfield Stone facility.

According to Parsons, the owners want to develop a business “within the footprint of the building.” Parsons said the first phase of the business plan will be to create a basement-level brewery and brew pub. “The intention is to get the brewery and brew pub operational first, and then work on the next phase, being the banquet/restaurant on the main floor, with a five-room inn-type business on the second floor,” Parsons said.

The development of both phases of the business is to occur in 2018 and 2019, but the owners hope to have the brew pub up and running by 2018.

“The success of this business at this location is very important to the (town) and the village,” Parsons said. “Considering the historical significance of the Sweetheart, it is important this business not only survive but flourish.”

Parsons said that, when finished, the brewery and brew pub would employ between eight to 10 employees. The restaurant/banquet facility would employ between 15 to 20 employees, with most being full time.

Parsons said the project would be a “significant enhancement” to the town, bringing jobs, increasing the tax base, bringing more visitors to Shelburne Falls, and adding to the economic vitality of the area.

The Sweetheart was built in 1914, soon after the Mohawk Trail scenic highway was opened. Founder Alice Brown thought motorists would stop for local maple sugar if it was attractively packaged. She poured the maple cream into heart-shaped molds and sold the “Maple Sweethearts” as a roadside treat. Gradually the building grew into a restaurant and became the “Sweetheart Tea House.” The building is about 10,000 square feet, on about 3 acres.

In the summer of 2014, the long-vacant building was purchased by Mauricia Alvarez, who made a few improvements to the property before she died, several months after the purchase.

Since the partners of Sweetheart Realty LLC purchased the property last winter, the new owners have been working on the exterior of the building, clearing land behind it to open up river vistas, filling in an area for parking and building a stone wall and stone patio overlook.

Parsons said he hoped to discuss the proposal and a 10-year tax break with selectmen.

Parsons said the client would like to have a tax break agreement on this May’s annual town meeting. The client has hired local architect Bill Austin to develop building plans, with conceptual drawings to be available before a town meeting vote takes place.

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