Old business, new business in town

Permit hearing is Sept. 15; Rare Finds re-finds a home in Washington

More changes are afoot in the town of Washington.

While the town council now promises that a thrice-delayed public hearing will definitely happen at its Sept. 15 session — for Jim Abdo and the White Moose Inn’s application for a special-use permit to operate Deborah Winsor’s home at 199 Main Street as a tourist home — another business with a name familiar to longtime Little Washingtonians plans a return to Main Street.

Stew and Eve Willis said this week they were about to close on the former headquarters of retired attorney Doug Baumgardner’s practice at 211 Main St., where Eve (in partnership with Comfort co-owner Susan McCarthy) plans to reopen the antiques and gift shop Rare Finds, which she ran in town during the days when the Willises lived at Mount Prospect and Stew served on the town council and as mayor (a post he left in 2003, when the couple moved to Sperryville).

Stew Willis said Baumgardner’s partner Michael Brown, now with the Warrenton-based Walker Jones firm, would also retain his practice in the north end of the building.

Meanwhile Red Truck Bakery owner Brian Noyes says plans are progressing, with owner Abdo, to build out the commercial bakery and cafe he plans to open at the old Rappahannock News building at 249 Main St.

Noyes said Red Truck’s Washington location will become its main production bakery, but there would be significant room for tables out front, inside and on a planned rear deck. Red Truck’s Warrenton home would become primarily a cafe after the bakery itself moves 25 miles west.

With most of the interior demolition done, Noyes said, he hoped construction would begin soon — although he said he’s told Abdo that if the quarters are not ready before Red Truck’s annual holiday crush of online and in-person orders, moving the bakery and kitchen would probably have to wait until after the first of the year.

Opponents of the Winsor tourist home permit — and opponents of commercial development in the town in general — have publicly criticized the town recently for postponing the application hearing three months in a row. Mayor John Sullivan said Monday the application “is now complete” and is available for inspection at town hall; the hearing, he said, will happen at the council’s 7:30 p.m. meeting Sept. 15 (postponed a week from its usual date).

In the application, Winsor says in an Aug. 22 email to town zoning administrator John McCarthy that she hopes to stay in the house when she is in town — where she also plans to maintain her interior design showroom next door, in the former Rappahannock Title building — “and do plan on bringing my kids and dogs whenever possible.”

The rental of the home, to be managed by Abdo’s White Moose Inn a block north, would be as “one entity,” Winsor says, “not per room as a B&B.” Two parking spaces would be added between the home and the design shop next door.

The application also includes a June 2 letter from Elizabeth Buntin, who lives next door with her daughter, Nancy, who opposes the permit because her place will then be surrounded by tourist accommodations — although she notes that Foster Harris House owners John and Diane MacPherson “are good neighbors with very high standards . . . and we are glad to have them next door.”

But “if our property were hemmed in on both sides by tourist homes,” she wrote, “it would affect our property value . . . My husband and I bought this property in 1950; we have done many improvements to it in those 64 years and I do not want to see these efforts and expenditures wasted.”

Buntin, who is 98, also points out that adding another B&B or tourist home in town would “put the residential nature of the town out of balance. Preserving the village atmosphere is very important; it is what draws people out here. I think there is danger that Main Street will become a tourist strip.”

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Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 538 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.