Downtown rebound: Three businesses plan openings, three more to come

Countering mounting concerns about empty storefronts, three business got zoning approvals last week with plans to open this spring — two on Main Street and one on Danbury Road.
The three new businesses — two restaurants and a women’s fashion shop — got approvals from the Planning and Zoning Commission at its Feb. 26 meeting.
The new businesses approvals were:

  • Tablao Wine Bar & Restaurant at 426 Main Street (the former 50 Coins spot in the alleyway) had a revision of a special permit and a village district application approved by the commission, allowing the business to have two signs, one on its awning and another “blade” sign facing Main Street. The location is part of a Main Street block owned by Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc.

  • Hers Modern Boutique, moving into the former Farmer’s Insurance office at 448 Main Street, had a village district application approved for a sign on the building’s wall. This location, too, is part of Urstadt Biddle Properties’ Main Street holdings.

  • Posa, a new restaurant going into the former Luna Rosa location in Commerce Park at 90 Danbury Road, had a revision to a special permit application approved authorizing the replacement of of two large windows with collapsible doors and a new picture window. The property is owned by Commerce Park JV LLC.

“All three are established successful businesses,” said John Devine of the Economic and Community Development Commission (ECDC). “Tablao, Spanish tapas with an operating business in SoNo; Hers an upscale boutique with a location in Wilton; and Posa named for the chef/owners home in Positano, Italy, featuring Mediterranean cuisine and brick oven pizza.”
Quick approvals
The Tablao, Hers and Posa applications were approved by the commission following meetings with the Architectural Advisory Committee/Village District Commission — which reviews plans for architecture and aesthetics and makes recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The commission approved all three applications with relatively little discussion, on 7-to-0 votes with Joe Fossi absent and Bob Cascella abstaining due to what he described as “a financial relationship” with the transactions or people involved.
Devine attended the meeting of Architectural Advisory Committee/Village District Commission and later praised the town’s planning and zoning operations for speeding the applications through the sometimes cumbersome process.
“The three applicants were all able, on the same evening, go across the hall to the P&Z meeting for final approvals. It was not long ago that there was a two week gap between the two reviews. Last night the streamlined process kept all three businesses on track for their planned April openings and eliminated a second trip. Thank you, Becky,” Devine said, referring to Planning and Zoning chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti.
Mucchetti, however, said that the swift processing was the efficient work of planning office administrator Aarti Paranjape.
“The credit all goes to Aarti,” Mucchetti said. “She schedules the applicants to go to AAC/VDC on the same night that the PZC meets so that they can just come across the hall.”
Three more
Devine that three other Main Street storefronts are in negotiation with potential new tenants.
“Up next —Johnny Gelato, Purple Frog and Raveis,” he added, mentioning the former tenants at three currently empty business locations. “All spaces are under negotiation.”
Devine took pride in the Economic and Community Development’s efforts to market Ridgefield, and said the ECDC’s program must have helped get the commercial spaces quickly filled with new tenants.
“It is a rare occurrence that we are able to attract and convince established Fairfield County restaurants to expand with additional locations in 06877,” he said, referring to the town by its zip code. “We hosted numerous events last year that attracted thousands of visitors from surrounding counties, and our first six months of paid marketing reached over 250,000 individuals. To have numerous, interested tenants ready to step in as soon as spaces became vacant has to have been influenced by our marketing and events. It is the only unique variable over prior years.
“When we had multiple businesses announce that they were closing at the same time in late December I was shocked, disappointed and troubled,” Devine said in an email the morning after the approvals. “The optics were not missed by the skeptics. I had a bad week. Last night, our efforts paid off. It was a great night.”