A transformation is on the doorstep of Andover Village Square.
The shopping center on the south end of Main Street that’s been on the verge of expansion and redevelopment for months will soon boast a gelato shop and a popular burger joint franchise built on fresh food.
They will join two relative newcomers — a high-end liquor store and Italian delicatessen — plus an expanded Dunkin’ Donuts.
Put those together with an icon of local dining — the Lantern Brunch — and another icon of the local literati — the Andover (Hugo) Bookstore — and the mixed-use center will soon become a go-to for many needs.
Top it off with an outdoor courtyard, with a central, granite fire pit surrounded by artistically arrayed pavers, that will offer patrons of the various establishments a place to sit outside and enjoy a gelato or a pastry or to peruse one of the thousands of tomes sold in the bookstore.
John Fenton, one of the owners of the mixed-used center, believes all the elements combined will soon make the center a place to see and be seen.
Gelato, crepes and more
Mr. Gelato is due to open in the courtyard area of the building later this month or the first week in July, according to owner Peter Kekidi of Methuen.
Kekidi, 55, has been in the hospitality industry for 35 years, including working as a server at the Four Seasons in Boston. This is his second business, as he had a Thai restaurant in New York City years ago.
Mr. Gelato will be located in the space formerly occupied by Pink Tree Sweets, which closed in recent months.
Originally from Hungary, Kekidi said his cafe will be a “sophisticated” version of a coffee and pastry shop.
He said there is currently no place to get good, old-fashioned gelato in town, and he thinks the Italian ice cream will do especially well in the summer.
“I did my research and I thought this would be a nice addition to Andover,” he said. “They are doing the courtyard over now and going to put the fireplace outside. I will be putting some couches inside and will have high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi.”
He hopes to also serve traditional Hungarian crepes along with Italian pastries and other treats, both homemade and from Boston Gourmet, as well as espresso, cappuccino and other types of coffee shop fare.
Kekidi said he may end up leaving his job at the Four Seasons, but that he still has to decide.
“I might have to flip a coin and take my chances,” he said.
UBURGER moving north
For its first restaurant outside the Beantown boundaries, UBURGER, a Boston-based burger chain, has set its sights on the corner of the building near the municipal parking lot.
The burger franchise came onto the scene in 2006 when co-founders Nick Kesaris and Spiro Kouvlis, who were fed up with the lack of fresh fast food in the Boston area, opened their flagship Kenmore Square location, its website says. UBURGER immediately became a neighborhood fixture among students, locals and Red Sox fans.
Jim Chen will own the local UBURGER. He has been meeting with architects and builders and plans a Sept. 1 opening, coinciding with Phillips students’ return to classes just up the street.
“I thought Andover was a great location,” he said. “There are a lot of students, and I like the demographics.”
In addition to being the first UBURGER outside Boston, Chen, who owns another location, said his restaurant will be the first to serve beer and wine. On Monday night, the Board of Selectmen approved a beer and wine license for the eatery.
The restaurant will also benefit from a recent vote by Town Meeting to allow an outdoor patio at the site, where patrons can sit and enjoy their burgers, home-cut fries and milkshakes, among other menu fare. The outdoor seating will be between the building and the parking lot.
Another new face on the block is D’Agostino’s Deli, located on the opposite corner of the building from UBURGER’s location and facing out onto Main Street.
The Italian-style eatery has limited indoor and some outdoor seating, but the real magic happens behind the counter. There, two generations of the D’Agostino family, using skills handed down to them by patriarch Samuel R. D’Agostino, put together sandwiches and hot dishes, slice cold cuts and cheese, and offer good-natured ribbing to any and all.
Paul D’Agostino Sr. and his sons, Nick and Paul Jr., all residents of Andover, opened the deli on Jan. 30 and it has been mostly smooth sailing ever since.
“We’ve had a great experience,” said Nick D’Agostino, 28, who was in Hollywood acting in films and writing screenplays when he decided to return home and help out with the family business. “People were happy to find us.”
They said the location on the corner of the building gives them great visibility for people driving or walking by on Main Street.
“We really wanted to be on Main Street,” said Paul D’Agostino Jr., 31, a former Minor League Hockey player who played for the Providence Bruins for a couple years before deciding to open the deli with his father, brother and mother, Lisa. (Other branches of the D’Agostino family own delis by the same name in greater Boston.)
Patrons have been thrilled with their arrival.
“My wife grew up in Boston so she was familiar with the great sandwiches,” said local Realtor Jay Doherty. “They have a great product and this is a great deli. Plus, they’re all real gentlemen.”
Pouring something different
Another new arrival is Redstone Liquors, the second of two shops operated by proprietor Kamal Ganglani, 35, who decided to skip out on cubicle life after getting laid off from his IT job eight years ago.
After the layoff, he and his wife had a life-altering discussion. They purchased a Stoneham liquor store, brought it back from the dead and are on the verge of a huge expansion there.
They’re also now focused on growing the new branch in Andover.
The UMass Lowell graduate who now lives in North Reading said he spends most of his time in Andover so he can meet customers, build relationships and “get an idea of what they want to drink.”
“We like to take a hands-on approach,” he said. “It makes it more fun. That’s why I gave up on cubicle life a long time ago.”
That’s not to say Ganglani doesn’t use the latest in social networking to bring customers to his store.
The high-end whiskey and craft beer shop offers exclusive deals to followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the shops’ websites.
“We have a big following on social media,” he said. “We post online every time we get new products in, so our customers know. Today, we got some shipments in and the sites will get updated with what just came off the truck.”
One recent weekend, for example, he announced the arrival of Fiddlehead beer, an IPA that is craved by many beer lovers but is very hard to find.
“We have exclusive access,” he said. “We’ve been doing this a long time — before it became popular — and we have a strong relationship with the brewers.”
It also comes in handy for whiskey, where his relationship with one distillery in Vermont enables the company to buy entire barrels of whiskey that are then poured into bottles with special Redstone labels.
“We have WhistlePig, out of Vermont, a 10-year old rye whiskey,” he said. “It’s pretty popular. We have a single barrel and each bottle has our logo etched into the glass, letting people know it’s a Redstone barrel.”
While the new tenants prepare their spaces, Fenton is working on building 14 single-level apartments on the second floor of the building.
The first seven rentals, both one- and two-bedroom units, are expected to be ready by late August or early September.
“We actually have some pre-leasing,” he said. “There’s been a lot of interest.”
Fenton noted that the apartments have high ceilings and many details from their Victorian ancestry. The entire mall, in fact, was originally comprised of two Victorian houses and a barn, which were all separate buildings.
Over the years, the two houses were connected and buildings were added on to the back and sides, creating space for more businesses and residences.
“It’s a mishmash,” he said. “But now it has all new electrical — all new systems.”
Fenton said the growth of Andover Village Square shows that business on Main Street is actually doing pretty well.
“People are talking about how retail space in Andover is dormant,” he said. “But it’s a pretty tight market right now.”
He himself is negotiating with another, major retail outlet, but he couldn’t say which one.
“There’s more to come,” he said.