Hope & Main vote cruises through Warren

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Next step, start building and turn on the ovens.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the town's sale of the Main Street School to the Hope & Main kitchen incubator group Monday, turning out in numbers not often seen during an all-day referendum at Warren Town Hall.

The vote was 413 to 37, a clear victory for the group that also saw one of the largest turnouts in recent memory at last month's special Financial Town Meeting. The next step for Hope & Main founder Lisa Raiola is to finalize a loan arrangement with the United States Department of Agriculture, which has offered a $3 million loan to get the project off the ground. Once financing is in place, construction will likely start soon after; she has said she hopes to be in business by mid-2013.

"What an astounding victory!" she said after the votes were added up after 9 p.m. Monday. "Amazing!"

Ms. Raiola's work to get Hope & Main off the ground has gone back nearly three years. The idea is to turn the old school into a comprehensive learning and production center where incubees, as renters or tenants are known, can produce and package their recipes — cookies, meats, almost anything food-related — while getting them ready for market. Ms. Raiola has said that Hope & Main's facilities will give budding entrepreneurs a chance to get their feet wet, and establish themselves as small business owners. Incubees will pay rent to use the facilities, and that money will help the non-profit organization stay afloat.

At the same time, Ms. Raiola sees Hope & Main as a community resource, and plans to have regular events open to the public. There will be a weekly market where local vendors and food producers can sell their food, and the building will be open for public events as well.

 

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.