An aerial view of the former Brookstone Events & Golf venue in Derry, now owned by LaBelle Winery. Courtesy photo.
Facing economic uncertainty, Amy LaBelle put plans to build the Farmhouse Marketplace in Amherst on hold in 2020. But LaBelle, the owner of LaBelle Winery in Amherst, is no ordinary entrepreneur. She quickly pivoted, taking advantage of an opportunity to buy an event center and golf course in Derry, determined to expand her hospitality empire despite the pandemic.
With husband Cesar Arboleda, LaBelle purchased the former Brookstone Events & Golf. She says they plan to open in phases, beginning this month. LaBelle’s business already includes a 20,000-square-foot flagship restaurant and event center in Amherst, a store and wine tasting room in Portsmouth, and a culinary line inspired by wine dubbed The Winemaker’s Kitchen.
The previous owners of the Brookstone property initially approached LaBelle in 2018 when LaBelle was having trouble getting permits for the Farmhouse Marketplace. After viewing the property, LaBelle started negotiating though that fell through when some family members weren’t ready to sell.
Undeterred, LaBelle pressed forward with her Marketplace project. But when COVID hit, she hit the pause button and focused on creating outdoor dining, figuring out the take-out market and teaching eight culinary classes per week.
By July, a call from the owners of Brookstone assured her they were now ready to sell. “I said, ‘You’re crazy. This is not the time for this. We’re trying to save our own business’,” LaBelle recalls of her initial reaction. She also saw an opportunity and ultimately purchased the property for $3.3 million. She’ll spend another $3 million on renovations. “It’s like a passion opening new businesses,” LaBelle says. “It’s a stunning property, right next to Big Island Pond.”
LaBelle says, “It brings LaBelle Winery to another part of the state and captures the northern Massachusetts market nicely.”
Cesar Arboleda and Amy LaBelle, owners. Courtesy photo.
The Derry location includes a wedding and event center as well as a restaurant, Americus, which will serve farm-to-table cuisine “with an international flare” and open mid-May. “Americus is our tribute to the American Dream,” LaBelle says. “As a first-generation immigrant, Cesar embodies the spirit and character of the American Dream every day, and we are grateful to live in this country—filled with opportunity and hope.”
Also in May, LaBelle will open a retail shop onsite that will sell gourmet prepared foods, platters for catering, LaBelle wines, non-alcoholic beverages and LaBelle’s line of culinary products. It will also offer a coffee and pastry bar.
LaBelle says she already has 32 weddings booked for the Derry property, which will also host a summer concert series. And the nine-hole golf course and miniature golf course will stay.
Also in the works are plans for a 3-acre vineyard and the set up to make sparkling wine, which LaBelle says she doesn’t have the space for in Amherst.
Eventually, she wants to build a hotel there as well. And she still plans to move ahead with the Farmhouse Marketplace in Amherst by 2023.
As if she’s not busy enough, LaBelle recently partnered with NH PBS to produce cooking shows for kids. “I made a decision a long time ago that I didn’t want to waste any of my days,” she says, adding she did the math to see how many days she would have ahead of her if she lives to 106. “You really don’t have a lot of days in reality. They go by fast.”
For more information, visit labellewinerynh.com.