NEK Tasting Center Moves Closer to Reality

NEWPORT CITY – A Main Street storefront may soon be filled. Albert and Eleanor Léger, co-proprietors of Eden Ice Cider Company, want to move their West Charleston company to the site of the former Downtown and Affordable Furniture. The move would allow the company to develop the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center to support local food enterprises.On Monday, the Newport City Council gave its support to the Tasting Center to apply for a planning grant from the Vermont Community Development Program. “The tasting center is the idea of beginning to learn about how food is produced here, the interesting products we produce in the Northeast Kingdom and to taste them together,” explained Eleanor Léger during a public hearing Monday evening. “The big component of it is a restaurant/pub kind of experience that will be on the Main Street level.”The Légers want to have a winery in the basement of the building. They are also looking to bring a handful of other businesses into the building. The project will bring about 20 new jobs to the region, she said. There is also a possibility of having a community kitchen and Green Mountain Farm to School may be on the upper level of the property. The benefits, explained Léger, include creating additional awareness and markets for the products produced on and off site. Another is to bring more tourism to Newport. The Légers started Eden Ice Cider Company about five years ago. The company has grown and is one of the state’s largest wineries. The company ships products to places like Massachusetts, New York and California. “We are bursting out of our little basement winery space,” she said. “We are looking for a new place to go.”The business will be a year-round operation. “We do different things at different times throughout the year,” said Léger. “There is always work to be done.”Léger predicts the company will get more business than it does now. She said the operation is in the home, on a dirt road, and gets two or three visitors a month.