From police barracks to liquor store

From police barracks to liquor store

Kevin Kitson owns the new Chepachet Village Wine & Spirits, the site of the former state police barracks. Here he stands in front of his tasting room, housed in what was once a jail cell. He’s holding “19 Crimes” wine. (Breeze photo by Jackie Roman)
Chepachet Village Wine & Spirits owners seek to preserve history, serve community

GLOCESTER – Behind the aisles of craft beer and local wine at Chepachet Village Wine & Spirits is one thing you won’t likely find in any other liquor store: a police holding cell.

The business happens to be located at the site of the former state police barracks, originally built in 1956, vacated seven years ago, and put up for public auction in 2014.

The building, located in the heart of Chepachet Village at 1116 Putnam Pike, was an ideal spot for Kevin Kitson to construct the retail liquor store he always imagined.

“This area was ripe for a destination retail liquor store,” Kitson said.

He grew up helping his parents, Robert and Deborah, with day-to-day operations of their own liquor store, Christy’s Liquors of Cranston. Not long after, the family opened a second liquor store, Kitson’s Liquors, at 677 Putnam Pike in Chepachet. In 1981, Christy’s Liquors moved to Chepachet as well.

When Kevin’s father fell ill in 2014, he told Kevin to take another chance. The public auction of the state police barracks seemed to be serendipitous.

“You’ve got to take a chance in this lifetime,” Kitson said. “We’ve been a mom and pop shop for 30 years, I knew that this was the time to make the jump.”

Thus ensued a bit of musical chairs: Deborah and Howard Clift, childhood friends of the Kitsons who also purchased the original Cranston liquor store from Kevin’s parents, purchased the former state police barracks. Kitson leases the building from the Clifts, running the business while the Clifts run the real estate.

“This could not have been possible without Howard and Deborah Clift,” Kitson said. “It’s a team.”

Together, that team built a 6,000-square-foot modern retail space, while also preserving some of the historic markers of the original police barracks from the 1960s.

Prior to demolition, Kitson pulled out the old jail cells, each of which weigh at least a ton. He had one of them sandblasted and painted, then installed in the back of the store.

That cell is now the location of a tasting room, where Kitson books local breweries like Pawtucket’s Foolproof Brewing Company (tonight, July 27) or an Absolut Lime tasting (Friday, July 28).

Kitson also saved the original original seal of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations which was mounted on the outside of the barracks. The plaque is being refurbished and will be placed on the front of the building.

In a nod to Rhode Island’s small businesses, Kitson’s shelves are lined with familiar local craft beers and wines: The Purple Cat from Glocester, Nickle Creek from Foster, and Grey Sail from Westerly among them.

The back wall of the store is made up almost entirely of 21 coolers, all stuffed with cold beer, spritzers, and mixes.

Not to mention the aisles of cordials, scotches, rums, tequilas, and bitters. Kitson even included the little things, like course salt for the perfect margarita, savory olives for a dirty martini, and organic brands for patrons with dietetic limitations.

The opening of Chepachet Village Wine & Spirits, on July 10, has also led to job creation, hiring 15 employees. Kitson also wanted to reduce his environmental impact, so the entire store is fitted with LED lighting.

“It’s exciting to actually exercise what you want to do,” he said.

Business owners from left, Kevin J. Kitson, wife Lisa and son Steven stand inside the new store on Route 44 in Chepachet. The new Chepachet Village Wine & Spirits store, which sits on the site of the former Chepachet State Police Barracks, opened for business on July 10. (Breeze photo by Robert Emerson)
The former state police barracks at the beginning of demolition.
(Breeze photo by Robert Emerson)