MIDDLETOWN – Although signs outside the historic building still read “Plumby’s” in pale blue, the Middletown Grange will soon be home to a new restaurant and the headquarters of local company J2Construct.
“The plan is to really have something that fits in well with the city and the architecture matches the history of this building,” said Jeff Lipshires, president of J2Construct, as he took a tour of the property at Daily News. “I think when we’re done this site will be really attractive and a great gathering place. This is what we hope for.
“An excellent location and an excellent opportunity”
Lipshires said he heard the historic building was for sale after reading an article about former tenant Plumby’s, which was forced to close due to staff issues.
He decided to contact owner Ralph Plumb III – whose family also owns the Brick Alley Pub and Restaurant on Thames Street – directly to purchase the property, as he assumed the building would receive many offers. According to online property records, the 499 East Main Road property sold for $ 2.2 million.
End of Plumby’s: Middletown restaurant that opened during pandemic closes due to staff issues
“It’s a big building and I think there is a lot of volume here that can be changed and better used so that the restaurant has a lot of space and there is a lot of office space,” said declared Lipshires. “The real estate market is really tough right now. There is no inventory and while it might not be the most perfect location I would have chosen, it is a great location and a great opportunity not only to relocate here but also to develop the seen. There are a lot of construction opportunities here.
This is certainly not the first time that the building has changed ownership. The present-day Middletown Grange was built in 1935 after a fire destroyed the original 1930 building, and has served as the residence of a number of tenants over the years, including Aquidneck Grange, No.30, Patrons of Husbandry.
A new restaurant to replace Plumby’s
Lipshires and his team are currently restoring and renovating the building for use as the company’s office and storage space. The building was already serving as offices for a few local businesses before the Lipshires purchase, as well as the home for Plumby’s Restaurant, a fast-paced, casual American restaurant that opened in mid-2020.
Lipshires says he plans to keep the current tenants who use the basement offices, but will convert the ground floor and add a second floor to serve as the base for J2Construct.
Past coverage: Iconic Newport restaurateurs eyeing the Middletown Grange building
The ground floor will also house a new restaurant with a mezzanine for additional dining space, Lipshires said. Although Lipshires is not a restaurateur, he said he wanted to keep the brand new kitchen equipment that Plumb had purchased for Plumby’s restaurant.
The type of restaurant that will occupy this space has not yet been determined, but Lipshires worked with Frank Doyle, one of the original owners of The Fifth Element restaurant on Broadway in Newport, to determine what a restaurant in the Newport might look like. ‘space.
Lipshires said Doyle joined the project as a friend by reimbursing Lipshires for the work he did on Fifth Element, but did not sign up as an official tenant of the food court inside of the Middletown Grange building.
Gone but not forgotten: The places we miss on Aquidneck Island
A few local restaurants have also spoken to Lipshires about using the space, but nothing has been set in stone.
“We’ve spoken to some people who operate restaurants in the area who want to move in and with the ability to have a full liquor license here, it allows them to go a little higher in what they do. And then there are other people who have considered coming up with a new concept, ”Lipshires said. “No matter what is here, the city can use it, and I think the goal is to have something that doesn’t conflict with daytime office use. “
Trying to keep that historic feel
After working in an office park near Valley Road for most of the company’s lifespan, the move to the Grange building marks a symbolic milestone for three-year J2Construct. The group recently won an award from Providence Business News as one of Rhode Island’s Most Innovative and Fastest Growing Companies in 2021. Lipshires attributes the company’s success to its transparent business practices and dedication. to work with the local community.
Past coverage: Plumby’s is ready to open in Middletown
“You still have to maintain your relationships,” Lipshires said. “We’re in a very small community and a small problem can create a lot of problems for you if you’re not careful. For us, it doesn’t matter if it’s a small or a big project, I want this client to be really happy with us as we leave.
Once the barn building is completed, it will function not only as office space for the team, but also as proof of the type of work being done by the company, Lipshires said. The design of the project is meant to emphasize the warm aesthetic of local agriculture inherent in the building’s history, with its New England shingle-style facade and barn-style accessory building.
Lipshires said his team are trying to preserve some historic aspects of the building.
“Overall we’re going to make some changes, but I think it’s going to really improve it and bring out that kind of farmers market feeling that history has presented here in the past,” Lipshires said. “I think it’s going to be a really cool place and we have plans to do things outside, maybe a farmers market or something like that. We have this great area of grass that we can use, and until we use it, we can do some fun things with it.
Lipshires said the group hopes to complete the building and move in by the end of the year, with a fully operational restaurant opening in the spring.