The death in May of the backer of the project to rehabilitate the former Main Street Bakery space and convert it into a boutique grocery store and delicatessen has left the final outcome in question as trustees sort out the estate.
Leslie Rudd purchased the site at 201 E. Main St. with plans to convert it into an Aspen outpost for his Oakville Grocery, which in two California wine country locations offers locally sourced food items, specialty sandwiches and catering services.
Work remains underway on a project to build a foundation beneath the 128-year-old building, which previously did not have one, according to local project architect David Rybak. That painstaking process is expected continue through next month and will ensure the building’s structural stability for generations to come.
What happens after that is up to trustees handling Rudd’s estate, Rybak said. Rudd, a champion of Napa Valley food and wine and a noted philanthropist, passed away from cancer at age 76.
“[Rudd] left us in a very good financial situation,” Rybak said, but the trustees need to get up to speed and make decisions on how to handle the estate. This involves looking at all options, including examining the Oakville Grocery Aspen concept and whether the trust still wants to be involved.
The trustees are doing what they are supposed to do by making sure the project is viable, Rybak added. He could not provide a timeline for their expected determination.
In the meantime, Rybak said the project has authorization to go “full steam ahead” on the building repair and stabilization work.
First using hand tools and now an excavator, that work underpinning the building’s brick walls progresses in 3- to 4-foot-wide stretches at a time, Rybak said. Concrete is poured once every two weeks. The work, under general contractor Tom Lester of Lester Development, is slow-going, but is moving along faster than it was this winter, he said.
Since there was no foundation, moisture from the ground infiltrated the bricks. With plaster on the interior wall and stucco on the outer wall, that moisture was trapped. Contractors are now reinforcing the walls using a helifix system that involves inserting steel rods.
The building in its long history has been a duplex residence, a doctor’s office in the 1890s and again a residence before it became the bakery and cafe some 40 years ago, Rybak said, adding that there could have been other uses as well.
Should the Oakville Grocery plan pan out — contractors still need an interior finish building permit — Rybak touted the way it will “really use the building,” exposing the bricks on the inside and the existing roof framing.
The outdoor patio and garden would also be expanded, creating more usable outdoor space, under the plan crafted with California architecture firm Backen Gillam and Kroeger.
The stucco on the building’s exterior cannot be removed without damaging the bricks, Rybak said, expressing regret.
Digging a foundation under a brick building is more difficult than doing so on a wooden Victorian house because a brick building, unlike the wooden home, cannot be picked up and moved, Rybak noted. But shoring up historic structures is one of the things that makes Aspen what it is, regardless of the time it takes or the difficulty.
“We restore our treasures,” he said.