“Mr. Barre Street” — a.k.a. Steve Ribolini — is in the process of moving back to Barre Street, where he spent his early years living with his parents and two brothers and today has an ownership interest in a substantial number of apartments and commercial properties on the street. Ribolini sold his previous house across the city line in Middlesex and is completing renovations to his Barre Street home, where he and his wife Jane expect to be living full time in the near future.
Not surprisingly, Ribolini is bullish on Barre Street. “I see Barre Street as an improving area of town,” he said. “The bike path has increased pedestrians and bikers to Barre Street. We now have the distillery, which has brought employment and business to town. We have an out-of-town company that soon will lease space at the old Northeast Granite building. And Woodbelly Pizza has been there four years and is now expanding to the former Fisher Auto space.”
Ribolini himself is a Montpelier success story. Born at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1949 at the old Heaton Hospital — the first baby born there that year — he is a product of the Montpelier school system and has been running his own companies since 1974. Starting with apartment purchases in the 1980s, he has also become a major landlord and property owner in the city.
After graduating from high school with a class of 183 — far larger than today’s classes, in part because U-32 towns were still sending students to MHS — he went to work for the Maunsell Company behind the Coffee Corner repairing office equipment. He started S/R Services part-time in 1974 and started working full-time for his own firm in 1980.
S/R Services is a professional cleaning and restoration company that helps property owners with water and fire damage. Today the company employs 15 full- and part-time workers and is run by his son, Andy Ribolini, he said.
Later, Ribolini and his late wife Patty started an apartment rental agency, Morningstar Property Management, which leases and manages rental properties, including properties Ribolini owns. However, the majority of properties it handles are owned by others, according to Ribolini. The rental company is now operated by two other children of his, Catherine Klarich and John Elwert.
According to Ribolini, the apartment rental market right now is strong, and only a couple of properties Morningstar manages are vacant. “The market has gotten even tighter since COVID,” he said. “Nobody seems to be moving away, since Vermont has the fewest cases per capita in the nation. There are some people moving here, but not in droves.”
Ribolini bought his first apartments in 1982 and kept buying them through the 1980s and 1990s and beyond, while also buying commercial properties, often in partnership with others.
His Barre Street holdings are extensive. In addition to many apartments on or near the street, he or he and his partners own the old Ibey’s car repair property near the Barr Hill distillery, the old Northeast Granite building (actually on Granite Street), and a new apartment building he recently built a year or two ago on Maple Lane just off Barre Street, near the Hunger Mountain Coop.
Other Montpelier properties he has full or partial ownership in include the Old National Bank building at 13–17 State Street, the building on Blanchard Court housing Leonine Public Affairs (formerly the First in Fitness location), the Elks Club golf course, and seven acres near the golf course.
The golf course is leased back to the Elks on an annual basis. Ribolini has considered building new condo units on the seven acres, but that idea is on hold because of the pandemic, he said. The city sewer system serves the seven acres and the golf course, making development possible there.
Today, Ribolini is semi-retired, although he keeps busy with his businesses and properties and is also a board member with the Montpelier Development Corporation, a city organization that promotes and assists local economic development.
Ribolini also spends time in Florida during some winters — though not in this pandemic year — and has a camp on Joe’s Pond. With good reason, he is a happy man and has a positive attitude. Asked some years ago by The Bridge why he is so upbeat, he answered: “So much in the world gets you down, why not be upbeat? Life’s too short to take it seriously.”
Ribolini is clearly happy about moving back to Barre Street. Although he is not fully moved in yet, he has spent some time there already. “I walk downtown a lot more, to the bank, the post office, or Sarducci’s,” he said. “I love it.”
In fact, he thinks living downtown is the wave of the future. “I think the future of Montpelier will include having more apartments in the downtown area,” he said. “That is where I see the growth happening, including by converting spaces in some of our old buildings into apartments.”