While many towns across Connecticut and the country as a whole are experiencing a significant loss of businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cheshire seems to be in the middle of a small economic boom.
At least four new businesses — Cheshire Craft Brewing, Olive & Henry Fine Foods, ReRead Books & More, and Counter Weight Brewing Company — have either opened or received approval to open by the Planning and Zoning Commission within the last year.
Now, the Town is getting ready to possibly welcome four more establishments, all of which have expressed their interest in opening up shop in Cheshire.
“This is really an amazing thing,” said Jerry Sitko, economic development coordinator for Cheshire. “Despite the pandemic, good things are happening in Cheshire and we couldn’t be happier.”
The businesses seeking to possibly open in town in the coming month include the popular coffee shop chain Starbucks; a new steakhouse restaurant, Bone In Prime; another craft brewery, Malpractice Brewery, which would make the third brewery planned for Cheshire; and a new restaurant called Anthony’s. All are set to move to town in the near future, which Sitko believes will help to put Cheshire in the spotlight when it comes to Connecticut communities.
“I’ve been working with some of these guys for a while now and it’s great to see this come to a head,” Sitko added. “This is so exciting for us. It’s about time for Cheshire to really stand out.”
Some of the business owners are looking to come to Cheshire after experiencing success in other Connecticut towns, Sitko explained.
“The (owner) of Bone In Prime (Fico and Alix Cecunjanin) has a successful business in Middletown (The Red Fox) and he wanted to try his hand here,” Sitko added.
The Cecunjanin brothers also have a restaurant in Portland called Fox on the Green.
On Monday, Jan. 25, the PZC met to review some of the proposals for a few of the new businesses, focusing almost exclusively on Starbucks.
The discussion centered on the renderings presented for the new coffee shop, which show a square building with a drive-thru window option and adorned with the usual Starbucks logo and colors. Several commissioners expressed concern that the current design for the building might not fit in with Cheshire’s aesthetic.
“I work in Shelton and they have a Starbucks over there that looks so good with the community and it fits in well with the other buildings,” mentioned Commissioner Rob Brucato. “I don’t think that this plan looks right with Cheshire. We are Cheshire Village and we want to keep that look and feel to our businesses. We don’t want to make the same mistake we did previously when we had all these contemporary-style buildings that didn’t look right.”
While some of Brucato’s fellow commissioners echoed his concerns about the building’s design, others argued that the Planning and Zoning Commission doesn’t have the power to force Starbucks to make significant design changes to their current proposal.
“I think we should be careful and make sure we are not overstepping our jurisdictions here,” said Commissioner John Kardaras. “I’m not sure we have the right to tell the applicant they have to change their design.”
Chairman Earl Kurtz III disagreed with Kardaras, and requested the public hearing be kept open to allow for the representative of the applicant, attorney Anthony Fazzone, to go back to his client to try to come up with a compromise.
“Has the public seen these photos?" asked Brucato. “Because everyone I’ve talked to says they don’t like it. I’d like to see what they have to say.”
Brucato urged residents to contact the PZC and offer opinions on the renderings shown at the meeting.
The public hearing will remain open until the Feb. 10 PZC meeting.