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Sunday, Dec 4, 2022

Mad Taco and kindred eateries to fill the Old Stone Mill

“What does Middlebury need?” That is the question that the Old Stone Mill at 3 Mill St. has answered over time, as its tenants have come and gone with shifting town demands. Now, the answer to that question is Mexican food, and the Old Stone Mill plans to deliver. 

Starting in October, Vermont-based taqueria Mad Taco will take over the downstairs restaurant space formerly occupied by Storm Café. The second floor will house The Arcadian To Go, Dedalus Wine Shop, interior designer Slate Home and Lost Monarch Coffee in a public marketspace.

The Old Stone Mill was purchased from the college earlier this year by Community Barn Ventures, a firm owned by Middlebury businesswomen Stacey Rainey and Mary Cullinane. The building has since undergone extensive renovations in order to fit their vision for the space. In addition to Mad Taco and the public market, the third floor will serve as a collaborative membership-based workspace, and the fourth floor will hold four Airbnb units.

“We hope to bring to the community a place where they can come together and celebrate where they live,” Rainey said. “Where they can have access to high-quality products and experiences that were otherwise difficult to have access to here in Middlebury.”

Mad Taco owners Joey Nagy and Wes Hamilton opened the restaurant’s first location in Waitsfield in 2010 and have since expanded to Montpelier and Essex. Known for its smoked meats and strong margaritas, the restaurant’s Middlebury branch will offer a full menu of tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more, made with fresh ingredients from Nagy’s own Marble Hill Farm. The space will hold about 25 seats, and the outside deck has been expanded to fit picnic tables.

“To have Mexican food in an iconic building on a great deck overlooking the Otter Creek River with your friends and family surrounding you? It’s going to make for a perfect afternoon,” Rainey said. Cullinane and Rainey believe that Mad Taco’s emphasis on local food systems aligned perfectly with their goals for the Old Stone Mill.

“Our company was started because we wanted to help local businesses grow and support the economic underpinning of this community,” Rainey said.

After several town businesses closed over the last year, the pair sought to minimize the risks for the shops they will introduce. The Daily Grind coffee shop, which replaced Carol’s Hungry Mind after its closure last year, was forced to shut its doors less than a year after opening due to lack of staffing. The public marketplace will mitigate this concern by employing a joint check-out counter to be used by every shop, with the exception of Lost Monarch.

“That was part of what we saw as a key piece to attract some vendors to come down here – that they wouldn’t have to staff that space,” Cullinane said.

The Arcadian, an Italian restaurant that proved successful after opening last fall in the space formerly occupied by the Lobby, will offer a small-scale rendition of their signature fresh meats and house-baked bread in the form of to-go sandwiches and other items.

The restaurant’s owners, Caroline and Matt Corrente, also follow the shop-local ethos, using as many Vermont-produced ingredients as they can. “In a small town like this, we all have to work together to help meet the needs of our local customer base,” Matt Corrente said. 

“The goal is just to develop a reputation for consistency and to really establish ourselves as a place where people feel like they can make a habit of coming to.”

A rendering of the Old Stone Mill by Community Barn Ventures shows a new stair tower on the west side. The new building includes community office space, a taco restaurant and residential areas.

Lost Monarch will offer to-go drinks and snacks to the marketplace’s shoppers. The store is a sister of Royal Oak Coffee, which was opened in Middlebury by owners Matthew and Alessandra Delia-Lobo in May of this year.

Dedalus Wine Shop, a Burlington-based store offering a wide variety of wines as well as cheeses and charcuterie, will occupy two stalls of the public marketplace. The store prides itself on stocking goods for many different price points, including bottles under $25. Dedalus will also offer wine clubs and catering.

The Burlington-based design firm Slate Home will also be found in the public marketplace, offering home decoration products and services. The store’s website advertises that the store is a place to shop local. “We care about what we buy and to whom we sell, about our spaces, our connections and each other,” it reads. Slate Home will be designing the four Airbnb units that will be found on the top floor of the Stone Mill. One of the units will feature a handicap-friendly bathroom, and all levels will be accessible by elevator.

The addition of such features was one of the most significant part of the renovations undertaken by Community Barn Ventures, who ensured that the entire building was ADA-compliant. In addition to the elevator, the building will also be equipped with wheelchair-friendly entryways and outdoor spaces.

The third floor will be an open-space workplace that will boast high-speed WiFi, chairs, desks, conference rooms, printers, scanners and office supplies that will be available to members 24 hours a day. Along with the collaborative workspace, the floor will also hold two personal offices up for rental. Applications to access the space will be collected this month.

Overall, the greatest challenge that Cullinane and Rainey faced was getting everything done quickly. Construction began in April and the Stone Mill is on track to open in October. “The sooner, the better,” Cullinane said, emphasizing that she wanted the shops to be open for Vermont’s beautiful fall season.

“There’s just a lot of good stuff going on in Middlebury,” Rainey added. “And I’m excited for adding to that.”