(Host) A well-known Manchester restaurant was sold at auction Tuesday.
The Harvest Grille – formerly "The Quality Restaurant" – went for a high bid of $220,000, plus unpaid taxes.
The sale attracted an audience, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports.
(Keese) Five potential buyers paid the $10,000 deposit necessary to actually bid in the auction.
But dozens more turned out to watch. Some were in commercial real estate. Many were former patrons and employees of the much-loved Main Street eatery, which has been closed for about a year as the foreclosure process inched forward.
The scenario has played out in many towns. Foreclosure filings are still rising in Vermont. State statistics for the first half of 2010 show a seven and a half percent increase over last year.
Patrick Monroe says it’s a shame. He spent a lot of time at The Quality in the 80’s. It was owned then by Wayne Bell, a current Manchester selectboard member.
(Monroe) "There used to be a group of us who would meet in here, start the day and have coffee. Friday after work it was a gathering place for the whole town."
(Keese) Jill Kiernan, who brought her son, used to come with her grandmother. They’d sit in booths and order a chicken salad plate, called a ‘Humpty Dumpty.’
(Kiernan) "I love this place. I hope whoever gets it brings it back."
(Keese) Manchester banker Jim Comar literally grew up here. His grandmother started the restaurant in 1920. The family sold it in 1975 for $95,000.
(Comar) "It was more of a casual restaurant sort of an environment – square tables and wooden chairs and it was very neat and clean and presentable."
(Keese) He says the menu was uncomplicated, but good enough for Sunday dinner.
(Comar) "Hot turkey sandwiches and roast pork and lobster tail and turkey, those kinds of things. It was good. Yeah."
(Keese) When the bidders assembled, Manchester auctioneer Eric Nathan began.
(Nathan) "This is an auction today which is a judicial foreclosure, ordered by the Bennington Superior Court. And what I’d like to know now is what would somebody pay for. How much? Put a bid on it somebody we’re here to sell it. Somebody bid 300,000. Somebody bid 200,000 then. What would somebody pay?" (Woman) "$10,000."
(Keese) Nathan tabled the offer and worked the bidding up.
(Nathan) "The bid is then 220,000 once; 220,000 twice. And it is two hundred and twenty thousand. Thank you so much." (Applause)
(Keese) The winner is Michael Schozer of Winhall. He says his wife wants to open an art gallery in part of the building. He’ll also rent space out, maybe to a small eatery.
Eric Nathan, the auctioneer, says the region’s commercial health isn’t that bad, though certain sectors are having problems. He says he’s sold several inns, motels and restaurants recently.
(Nathan) "And – they sell at auction, I mean we do sell them. And there really is a bright side of this in my view. And that is that with the adjustment in pricing, and it’s not uncommon for an auction to actually determine what that might be. It affords an opportunity for somebody to come in and buy it at a price where they can have a manageable level of debt."
(Keese) And Nathan says that will allow the business – and the economy — to move in the right direction.
For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.