A rush to fill vacancies

GREENWICH – In the words of Greenwich Chamber of Commerce President Marcia O’Kane, 2021 was truly a year for the books.

A number of local businesses and restaurants closed over the year, hit by the ongoing pandemic virus and changing consumer trends.

But there was also a rush to fill vacancies in almost every part of Greenwich. Most new businesses in 2021 were started by a younger, entrepreneurial cohort of go-getters, seeking greater independence in their careers or looking to take on new challenges in a rapidly changing retail landscape.

The new businesses that arose were also extensions of previously successful businesses by expanding their markets or testing the waters with short-term “pop-up” leases.

Most of the new outfits in Greenwich also have a particularly personalized and organized feel – like an expanding custom fitness and health business in Cos Cob, or a new men’s barbershop on Greenwich Avenue. And many of the new businesses were started by entrepreneurs with an immigrant background.

At Cave, a new venture on lower Greenwich Avenue, owner Paulo Lanfredi said he saw the need for a distinctive tonsorial salon for men – the name is a joke reference to ‘the caveman’ and the space is underground in a former Subway sandwich shop.

“We’re trying to create something unique, something different, for the gentlemen of Greenwich. There is nothing for guys like that; it tends to cater to a female clientele, ”Lanfredi said.

Lanfredi said it’s time for a barbershop to take care of male beards and a more cosmopolitan approach to grooming and dressing.

“A lot of people have come from New York, and they are looking for this (urban) lifestyle. It’s a good addition to Greenwich, ”he said.

The living room has special mirrors that can broadcast TV, a cabinet where members can store their beverage of choice, and a premium espresso machine. A massage operation will start soon – finding licensed masseuses has been extremely difficult, Lanfredi said.

The personal services entrepreneur decided to go into business after working as a stylist on Fifth Avenue in New York City. He opened a women’s salon in 2018. Cave opened several weeks ago.

Lanfredi, who grew up in Brazil with Italian parents, said his father was a “self-made man” and an inspiration for his own career. “I’ve always wanted to challenge myself and explore new ideas,” he said.

The new lounge on Greenwich Avenue is just one of many new ventures in the trade corridor. Openings have included RealReal, SaksWorks, Faherty, Herman Miller, Gregorys Coffee, La Tacqueria, Hinoki, LobsterCraft and the Jillian Hayes Gallery. Among the bigger new ventures is SaksWorks in the former Ralph Lauren store, which now offers restaurants, meeting spaces and short-term offices.

A new pop-up store, Bonpoint, offering European-style children’s clothing, has also appeared on the Avenue in recent months.

“We are happy to be in Greenwich, we wanted to be closer to our customers. And it’s the ideal children’s store on the avenue, ”said manager Mia Lupo.

A number of stores have also closed. On Greenwich Avenue, some top brands like Marmot and Lillian August closed in 2020 and Orvis in 2021. The Bowtie Cinema on Railroad Avenue closed this year, and a favorite destination for model train enthusiasts and other enthusiasts alike, Ann’s Hobby The Cos Cob center has also closed. In Byram, diners bid farewell to Char and Mill Street Bar & Table, which were replaced this year by Macelleria and Rosina’s, respectively.

“What a year 2021 has been,” O’Kane wrote in an email. “Those who live in Greenwich have always had an incredible choice of retail stores and restaurants and now, even during a pandemic, continue to benefit from new entrants. We hear that the pandemic has given some homeowners the incentive to make their dreams come true when desirable spaces and locations have opened up. “

A number of established chain stores are also eyeing Greenwich, O’Kane continued, like Bonpoint, a historic brand founded in France in the 1970s.

“Many successful New York-headquartered retailers see the opportunity to expand their stores into prime locations such as Greenwich Avenue. We don’t see this trend slowing down as the avenue will always be seen as a very popular destination with many people from all parts of Connecticut, Westchester and New York wishing to come to Greenwich for dinner or shopping, ”he said. she declared. .

Almost every section of the city has seen new business activity.

In Cos Cob, Joshua Takacs opened another branch of Functional fitness for the family after his success at Old Greenwich. Takacs started his own business in 2019 after working at a national chain as a trainer. He said he wanted to move away from what he called a “big box” operation and spend more time with clients on health and wellness, developing his own brand of fitness and wellness. coaching.

Some new businesses have diversified into a whole new territory. A table tennis facility has opened on Field Point Road in central Greenwich, Crush Table Tennis, offering a workout, lounge area and room for private parties. Owner Michael Tolle said it looks like a family recreational operation will work well, and the business opened in a former industrial building in November 2021.

“We designed the business and space to specifically provide an enjoyable experience for families, private parties, corporate team building exercises, fundraisers and special corporate events,” said said Tolle.

Also at Cos Cob, Stephanie Leone-Kim changed her career path from finance to small business. She opened La Brosse, a hairdressing, care and brushing salon.

Cos Cob also saw the addition in 2021 of another coffee and restaurant operation, Roost Kitchen + Coffee, an outgrowth of a similar Riverside business, Ada’s Kitchen + Coffee.

In Byram, there was new business activity in 2021, also capitalizing on newcomers to the city, looking for ‘funky’ shopping alternatives. Fofie & Mia’s Marketplace on Mill Street sells vintage clothing, old cameras, toys, housewares, jewelry and knick-knacks, and management says “each item has its own story and sentimental value.” .

In Glenville, a new restaurant operation, The Country Table, a specialty prepared foods market, now serves breakfast items, sandwiches, salads and entrees where a catering business once operated. In Banksville, in the north of the city, a new jewelry store, Picalie Joaillerie, also open in 2021.

Old Greenwich has also seen new activities, including Elivate Med Spa and Wellness, and new owners of the Alpen Pantry. The long-standing market changed hands this year, taken over by a team of husband and wife Drew Nemetz and Frannie Willsey, and now features gourmet fare, hot sauces, pickles, jams and hand-made pasta. alongside classic sandwiches.

Old Greenwich also has a new bookstore, Athena Books, which opened just before the winter break on Sound Beach Avenue. Co-owner Jennifer Bird said her husband had a background in business and the other owner, Odysseas Kostas, had a background in medicine and finance.

While the uncertainty of the pandemic posed challenges for small businesses of all kinds, Bird said the store got off to a good start in 2021.

“It was awesome, there was a ton of support in the community; a good start, ”she said.

Like other business owners who opened their doors to the public in 2021, Bird said she takes a bit of risk and looks for new opportunities, sometimes not the most obvious.

“We’ve had other businesses and love to read,” said Bird, “so it’s kind of a continuation of our interests and hopefully a positive contribution to the community. And new challenges, and forging our way, that also applies.

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About Octavia A. Dorr

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