On the day marking Bove’s 74th year in business, the Burlington pasta sauce company detailed plans to relocate its factory to Milton at a press conference Monday.
Mark Bove, the third generation to oversee the iconic café and pasta sauce line, said his grandmother would be proud to hear the news.
“Had she known that all of this, the loyalty and the support over 75 years would lead us to bringing what she created to more people in the United States …” he paused, the announcement’s emotion evident.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
Bove’s grandparents, Louis and Victoria, opened Bove’s Café on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, at 68 Pearl St. in Burlington. An Italian immigrant, Victoria couldn’t read or write English but knew how to make sauce, using tomatoes grown in the café’s backyard.
Back then, they sold spaghetti for 25 cents and a Coke for a nickel. Today, the prices are still reasonable.
Vermonters were saddened in September when the family announced the café would close this month, as the Boves found more customers buying their prepared sauces, meatballs and lasagna than dining in.
Previously made in Barre, the sauce is now produced in Youngstown, Ohio.
“We are coming home,” Bove said. “We are absolutely thrilled making this long-term investment in the state where we started making all our memories.”
The company broke ground on a 14,500-square-foot factory in Milton’s Catamount Industrial Park on Route 7. Plans were in the works for a year and have since received local and Act 250 approval for the facility, which will include a tasting room with a view into the sauce production.
The company will also rent out space for private parties and base its catering operations there. It will be hard to miss: A 15-foot-tall statue of a monkey, fabricated from the restaurant’s pots and pans, will greet visitors.
The monument pays homage to Bove’s uncle, Babe, a former bartender who handed out plastic monkeys to the kids who came to the café’s side door.
Though planning officials were concerned the sculpture would distract drivers or be a magnet for vandalism, Bove compared it to the South Burlington whales’ tails sculpture, “Reverence,” alongside Interstate 89. The selectboard eventually approved it, 5-0, on November 23.
Bove thanked state and local officials, a handful whom attended the presser Monday, for making this new chapter possible.
Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who was among Montpelier-types Sen. Dick Mazza and House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton), said Bove’s proves that with perseverance, it’s possible to grow a business in Vermont.
“This helps our Vermont brand,” he said. “This helps show that we have some history.”
Scott reflected on his own Bove’s experience, saying the café was a “cost effective” dining option as a college student at the University of Vermont.
“Hearing the news they aren’t going to really close, they’re still going to remain here in Vermont, that’s extremely beneficial to all of us,” he said.
It seemed like everyone in attendance, even members of the Vermont press corps, had their own Bove’s stories to tell. Legislators and reporters alike surveyed the café’s vintage booths and jukebox that evoked memories of meals past.
Just outside was Vermont native Guy Pepin, who waited for a ride in front of the restaurant Monday morning. Now a New York City resident, he’d just been exempted from jury duty at the nearby courthouse and told his mom to meet him at Bove’s.
“It’s a landmark,” he said, surprised and saddened to hear the news. “It’s the kind of place I would go.”
Bove recognizes his brand’s nostalgia and said the Pearl Street location will be somehow preserved. He’s also working on a yearbook, in which he’ll record memories to share at the company’s Milton grand opening.
For that, Bove aims for another significant date in 2016: June 17. Each time sauce production has moved – from Vermont to New York and finally Ohio – it’s been on a June 17, he said.
Bove hopes to host a “pastapalooza” with live music and meals at the 1941 prices, with all proceeds going to the Vermont Food Bank.
Town Manager Donna Barlow Casey was excited for the development, saying the Boves share Miltonians’ values of community, hard work and commitment. She hopes this is the first of many food-processing companies to call Milton home.
“It means a real celebration for the start of our efforts to attract new business into the town and expand our industrial base,” she said. “We’re hoping for another 75 years of Bove’s but in Milton.”
Bove’s at 68 Pearl St. in Burlington will close December 23.