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Troy wine bar entrepreneurs expanding a mini-empire

Site of the complex.
Site of the complex.
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So far, Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine have racked up an enviable record built on imagination, hard work and good marketing for their downtown Troy enterprises.

The couple began by opening the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery Wine Bar in November 2012, a spot that has quickly become a go-to place for several generations. Then they rehabbed part of an adjoining building around the corner on Broadway from their Second Street location, where they opened The Grocery, a specialty foods spot much needed in downtown.

Now, continuing their pattern, they're working on the old Clark House building at 207-217 Broadway that houses The Grocery, the backyard of which connects with the other two businesses. A portion of the ground floor will become The Tavern Restaurant, the revival of a business that closed several decades ago. Renovations are under way, with an end-of-the-year target opening date.

The four-story building covers 10,900 square feet. It was built in 1876, and over the years was home to a boarding house and hotel, as well as various industrial, manufacturing and retail tenants. By last year, the sole remaining tenant was Broadway News, which opened in 1934 and continues to operate today. When Christopher and LaVine bought it for $80,000 in March, 2013, it was severely in need of stabilization. The first part of renovating it was creating The Grocery which is its center storefront.

Completion of this project will result in a complex of three businesses for them just steps from Monument Square, a commendable accomplishment for one of the city's most energetic couples. The only problem this bring to the neighborhood is further strain on parking availability, However, a city-owned parking garage a block away next to the site of the old city hall on River Street is available.

The Tavern Restaurant operated from 1933 to 1993. Christopher, 38, and LaVine, 36, are asking anyone with memories or memorabilia to share them as they re-envision the space. "When Troy was doing good, this was the place to go. Then things fell apart, and so did The Tavern," Christopher said. "We're bringing it back."

Windows have just been installed in the recently-restored cast iron tavern-front. They include a series of customized bi-fold glass doors that can remain open to allow for alfresco dining in warm weather. This $12,500 installation was the first of its kind for Quality Glass, a three-generation family business operating in Troy since 1940.

According to the owners, some original elements remain in the building, including a section of the floor with a tile mosaic spelling out "THE TAVERN." They plan to preserve wall tiles from the former kitchen. Structural steel is being used to support a marble bar top, which was reclaimed from an old Troy soda fountain.

"This building was full of debris and crazy stuff and we're re-purposing everything we can," said Christopher, an avid user and re-purposer of old building elements. "We even reused the plywood that boarded up the windows for the last 20 years."

Kathryn Sheehan, Rensselaer County historian, said she remembers joining her grandfather as a young girl for lunch at the Tavern Restaurant: "The Tavern was the first place I had a club sandwich, and a Shirley Temple. It made me feel very adult-like. Gramma was a teetotaler and Grandpa had a great sense of humor, so after lunch he would always give us a wink and tell us not to tell Gramma where we ate lunch. She would not have approved."