By Stefanie Jackson – As far as Louise Oliver could tell over the last year, Northampton County and Eastville town officials wanted everything but the Kitchen Sync catering business to be run in the historic Eastville Inn.
But Oliver, Kitchen Sync’s owner and operator, prevailed when Northampton supervisors approved a new lease agreement April 12, giving her two to four more years to run the business at the inn.
The new lease began this month and will expire March 31, 2024. However, the lease contains an option for Oliver and the county to agree to a one-year lease extension, and the option may be used twice.
The provision was a compromise between Oliver, who wanted a three-year lease, and county supervisors, who wanted a one- or two-year lease.
The new arrangement is an improvement for the business owner, who had been leasing the Eastville Inn on a month-to-month basis since her previous lease expired in September 2021, while supervisors debated the issue and County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski negotiated the lease with Oliver.
Her troubles began nearly a year ago, when she read the minutes of the May 2021 Eastville Town Council meeting, which stated then-Police Chief David Eder announced that “Northampton County was considering a different direction for the Eastville Inn and possibly a new tenant.”
Oliver was shocked and disappointed. Not only was it the first time she had received such news, she could not imagine a new tenant would fare better at the Eastville Inn, as most of the previous businesses run there were restaurants that did not experience long-term success like Kitchen Sync, which has been operating at the inn for approximately seven years.
The future of the catering business became more uncertain when local developer Eyre Baldwin attended the March 9 supervisors meeting and spoke publicly about his interest in the Eastville Inn.
He had previously attempted to buy the property from Northampton County and said he wanted the current lease of the Eastville Inn to continue on a month-to-month basis to allow him the time and opportunity to explain his vision for the historic site to supervisors.
Baldwin did not reveal details but said his plan would incorporate the entire building. The first floor of the Eastville Inn, which contains a commercial kitchen and dining areas decorated in a federalist colonial style, currently is used to host catering events. The second floor is unused and requires heavy renovation.
Perhaps the main point of contention between Oliver and Northampton County regarding the Eastville Inn’s lease was the county’s requirement for the inn to be open for breakfast and lunch three days a week to serve customers including county employees who work in Eastville, the county seat.
Oliver was grappling with this in October 2020, the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, when customers couldn’t or wouldn’t eat in restaurants and Kitchen Sync’s catering business was growing.
She had hung a sign reading “Keep Calm, We Are Opening Soon” on the front of the Eastville Inn and planned to open in July 2021, but when Oliver read the comment about Northampton possibly planning a different course for the inn, she was reluctant to invest in the business expansion.
Oliver had asked for a three-year lease to allow time for her to recover the investment she would need to make to provide restaurant-style meal service.
The new lease agreement reflects this in the gradually increasing monthly rent: $750 in the first year, $1,000 in the second year, and $1,250 thereafter if the lease is extended.
According to the approved lease agreement, the Eastville Inn will be open three days a week at least five hours a day, serving two meals a day, starting within 60 days from the beginning of the lease term.