A landmark restaurant in Burlington, Vermont may be closing, but Bove's Café announced a new business venture it says will mark a new chapter in the company's 74-year-old history.
Bove's told reporters Monday that work is underway on a 15,000-square-foot facility on Route 7 in Milton, where the brand will manufacture its line of jarred marinara sauces.
Those sauces have been produced in Ohio, and are already sold in stores on the East Coast. The new facility will bring the manufacturing back to Vermont, and enable, Boves hopes, a nationwide expansion for the grocery store line. An advantage of moving manufacturing will be greater control over costs and quality control, the business said.
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"Can you imagine my grandmother back in 1941?" Mark Bove said of business's founder, Victoria Bove. "Saying, 'Hey grandma, we're going to make sauce for the entire country and not just Vermont!' That's pretty amazing."
Louis and Victoria Bove opened their restaurant in downtown Burlington on Pearl Harbor Day, in 1941, and became popular for its low-cost family meals featuring Victoria Bove's marinara sauces.
"Back then, a spaghetti and meatballs dinner was a quarter, and a Coke was a nickel," Mark Bove told necn. "So for thirty cents, you could have a filling meal, with bread and cheese."
In the decades since, not much about Bove's has changed. Spaghetti and meatballs are still favorites, and the restaurant has its original floors and booth. A vintage jukebox greets customers entering from Pearl Street, and classic cocktails are on the menu.
Despite having achieved landmark status in Burlington, counting then-Senator John F. Kennedy among its countless customers over the decades, the Bove family decided it is time to close down the eatery.
"I'm really sad to see them go," said customer Bob Kirby, who estimated he first came to Bove's about 50 years ago. "It's a Burlington icon. I've been coming here since I was a kid with my parents."
Kirby and other loyal diners have until December 23 to get one last meal at the old restaurant.
However, the Boves do not think of that closing date as a reason for tears: they instead think of this moment as an exciting period of transformation.
"It's not a sad day," Mark Bove said, smiling. "Remember, good news travels faster than bad news."
Bove said the new manufacturing facility in Milton will feature a tasting room and tours, but no restaurant. He said current restaurant employees will be encouraged to work at the new sauce-making location, which he estimated will have, to start, between five to 10 jobs.
"I think it will bring tourism to Milton, visitors, and additional investment," predicted Milton town manager Donna Barlow Casey. "Milton is a hidden gem. We would love to see more food manufacturing come to town. We have space, we have employees available, we're close to Interstate 89, close to New York, and there's an energy around business development in the town right now."
Bove said he has a goal of opening the new Milton venture in June of 2016. He said it is too early to say what the future will be of the historic building that now houses the restaurant, but he said he hopes to move some key components of it to the Milton location.
After Bove's closes, it will leave Henry's Diner and Handy's Lunch among the longest-operating restaurants in the Burlington area. Henry's boasts an opening date of 1925, though has had different families own it in that time. Handy's has been in the same family since 1945, and celebrated its 70th birthday Monday.
Bove's also produces a popular line of frozen meatballs and lasagnas.