The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 17, 2013

Pairings inks lease agreement, gets new sponsor

Star Beacon

GENEVA — It’s been an eventful week fo the Pairings Wine and Culinary Experience, director Jennifer Brown said, as the wine and food center became the pending leasee of the former Geneva Elementary property and gained another major sponsor.

The newly drafted lease for the vacant city-owned lot at Park and South Eagle streets, where Geneva Elementary used to stand, is modeled after the city’s lease with the county for the Western County courthouse, Geneva City Manager Jim Pearson said.

The five-year agreement, which has seen one city council reading and will go through two more readings, outlines shared lawn care and landscaping duties, among other details.

The Pairings committee will have the option to sub-lease parts of the property.

Pairings, the proposed 38,000-square-foot non-profit culinary and education center, will include restaurant and banquet facilities, cooking classes, wine making demonstrations, incubator facilities for start-up wineries, educational culinary demonstrations, office space and a gift shop. The project will begin with a start-up “Windows on Pairings,” which will incorporate the pastoral barn on the property to help develop the facility’s business plan and hone its vision.

The committee recently planted and dedicated the teaching vineyard on the property and announced a naming sponsorship by KeyBank.

Now the Debevec family, whose grapevine roots go deepest in this county, has stepped forward with a sponsorship for the front entryway to the education vineyard in the new Windows on Pairings facility to honor Rose and Tony Debevec, founders of Debonne Vineyards.

“This donation is to recognize our parents’ long standing family history and enduring commitment to the Ohio grape and wine industry,” said vineyard president Anthony Debevc. “We are very pleased to be able to help support Windows on Pairings, and wish to honor my father and recognize my mother for their vision and wisdom.”

The sponsorship was made by Beth and Tony Debevc and Donniella Winchell.

Debonne Vineyards was established during the third generation of the Debevc family’s viticulture history. Anton Debevc, a 1914 immigrant from the Slovenian State of Yugoslavia, purchased a general fruit farm in Madison in 1916. Anton’s son, Tony, helped expand the vineyard in the late 1960’s.

With his family living in a chicken coop on the farm, Tony and his son, Tony Jr., worked as commercial winemakers. Debonne Vineyards was founded as a winery in 1972. The family produces 85,000 gallons of wine each year.

“Dad was always a man ahead of his time, launching many vineyard innovations to keep viticulture strong in the Grand River Valley,” Winchell said. “Mom was committed to keeping the farm financially secure in the days well before wine grapes were planted there. We are honored that this vineyard will memorialize their contributions.”

Sponsorships for Windows on Pairings are still available. For more information email or call 466-4675.

Pearson said Geneva law director Lauren Gardner spent many hours working on the lease agreement, which can be renewed for up to four additional five-year periods and includes an option to purchase the land for $267,000.

The agreement, which includes the barn on the Geneva Board of Education office land, shows that Pairings will pay rent quarterly in the amount of $3,000 for the first year, $5,000 for the second year, $7,000 in the third year, $8,000 for year four and $10,000 for year five.

Insurance was also a major consideration with the lease, Pearson said, as the property must hold $3 million for general insurance and $3 million under automobile, as well as a liquor liability insurance and an additional policy for the planned farmer’s market this summer.

Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Mark Winchell said he is pleased to see Pairings “take off.”

“The committee’s goal to raise funds for construction, purchase of equipment and initial operating costs for Windows on Pairings is starting to take off,” he said.