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March 29, 2018

Depot’s purchase ensures popular restaurant’s future

File Photos/Lawrence Emerson
“We have a new lease on life,” restaurant owner Claire Lamborne says.
The former train depot has housed a restaurant since 1976.
My goal is to support Claire. I don’t have any time frame . . . . I like the idea of a woman helping another woman.
— Barbara “Bobbie” Crafts, building’s new owner
Claire’s at The Depot
• Opened: Feb. 3, 2005.

• Where: 65 S. Third St., Warrenton

• Owner: Claire Lamborne

• Serving: Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday Brunch

• Seating: 85, including bar, with 50 patio seats May-October.

• Atmosphere:
Informal “Tavern Room” and formal “Garden Room.”

• Staff: 25 employees, with as many as 30 for large catering jobs.

• Menu: American with Caribbean, European and Southwestern influences. Sandwiches, soups, salads, quiche and seafood for lunch. With more game, poultry and beef dishes for dinner. Daily specials.

• Entree prices: $10 to $16 for lunch; $14 to $32 for dinner.

• Beverages: Beer, cocktails and wine.

• Website: www.clairesrestaurant.com

• Phone: 540-351-1616
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Editor
An angel investor has purchased Warrenton’s iconic former train depot, ensuring the future of a popular restaurant that has operated 13 years in the red-brick building.

Barbara “Bobbie” Crafts, who lives near Marshall, completed the purchase early Thursday afternoon. Ms. Crafts and her husband Ralph formed Choo-Choo LLC to buy the building, which dates to 1852.

Claire’s at The Depot will continue to operate on South Third Street — something that recently had grown uncertain.

“We have a new lease on life,” restaurant owner Claire Lamborne said Thursday.

Her plans include new cocktails, new menu items, more local meat and produce, along with recruiting and hiring the restaurant’s first general manager, Ms. Lamborne, 75, explained.

She had deferred major changes and investments in her business because of uncertainty about the building’s future.

Former Warrenton resident Paul Rice, who has retired to Florida, announced recently that he planned to sell the building, with an asking price of $1.7 million.

Choo-Choo LLC paid $1.5 million for the 3,300-square-foot structure and the quarter-acre parcel on which it stands, according to county real estate records.

Mr. Rice, who in 2005 sold his Fairfax-based PEC Solutions Inc. to Nortel Networks, bought the restaurant building from Ms. Lamborne for $1.2 million nine years ago.

Two years later, he invested another $500,000 in a major renovation that created a much larger space for the bar and casual dining.

Several weeks ago, The Fauquier Times published a story about Ms. Lamborne’s uncertain situation.

“That is what alerted me,” Ms. Crafts said. “I just said to my husband, ‘This is terrible, and I want to buy the building’.”

She contacted Mr. Rice, who accepted her offer. The building’s new owner and her tenant have yet to hammer out a new lease, but the existing rental agreement runs through December.

“My goal is to support Claire,” Ms. Crafts added. “I don’t have any time frame . . . . I like the idea of a woman helping another woman.”

A Pennsylvania native who grew up in Princeton, N.J., and lived for an extended time in Maryland, Ms. Crafts came to Fauquier about four years ago. She describes herself as a teacher, writer and photographer.

Mr. and Mrs. Crafts two years ago donated $500,000 to county government to help build a larger terminal at the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport near Midland. A veteran pilot, Mr. Crafts has donated his time and the use of their airplanes to charitable causes.

Mrs. Crafts devotes much of her time to caring for unwanted horses that she has rescued.

“I like to rescue horses, and this is kind of a rescue,” she said of the restaurant building purchase, her first foray into commercial real estate investment.

“The (potential) demise of Claire’s had to be stopped,” Ms. Crafts explained.

Later she added: “I’m not a mogul. But, I’ve been blessed. I’m fortunate to be able to do this.”

The depot has housed a restaurant since 1976, when Ali and Karen Dorbayan renovated the building and founded an eatery that specialized in Mediterranean fare.

After a decade in the catering business, Ms. Lamborne in September 2004 bought the depot for $870,000 from Mrs. Dorbayan. As the new owner, she invested another $400,000 in the building.

“I’m really happy that I’m going to stay here,” the restaurateur said, reviewing a list of improvements she and her 25-member staff plan. “Bobbie moved very quickly . . . .

“We’re excited; we’re going to buy a steamer.”

> Q&A: Claire Lamborne on her restaurant’s 10th anniversary (2015)
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