Four months after tragedy struck in the Sandy Hook neighborhood of Newtown, businesses there are struggling to recover from a lack of visitors. They are rallying to bring back life and customers to the area.
I hadn’t really been back to the Sandy Hook neighborhood of Newtown since those awful days in December of last year. So when I visited today, I was shocked. A bunch of the once-bustling businesses in the downtown-like area known as Sandy Hook Village are now boarded up. Sharon Doherty has lived here her whole life and owned PJ’s Laundromat for 12 years. Since December 14, she’s lost customers.
“I’ve had several people say that they just didn’t feel comfortable coming down here," Doherty says.
Just about a mile from Sandy Hook elementary, this beautiful little downtown with the bubbling brook that runs through it, has lost so much vibrancy. The coffee shop, where all the reporters used to hang out in December because of its free wifi and cozy atmosphere: That’s gone. Stone River Grille, an American restaurant: Also gone. Things feel and sound empty. But I can also hear some notes of hope: Construction.
“Up here we’re going to do what’s called charcuterie and cheeses and chocolates – it’s going to look similar to a sushi bar," says Chris Bruno as he leads me around the 4000 square foot, two-story brick building that used to be Stone River Grille. He's got plans for what he calls a progressive American restaurant – set to open at the end of the month.
A chef who lives in Danbury, Bruno decided to do this in January.
“People did try to discourage me from taking this space, and I just really felt like this is where I wanted to be," he says.
"I see life here. I see life is going on.”
A consortium of business owners and community members have come together to try and figure out how to revitalize Sandy Hook Village.
They include Ron Provenzano. On this sunny morning he was taking a walk on the bridge across the little brook that goes through the neighborhood. Provenzano just opened up a barbershop here. He’s offering $5 haircuts for everyone in hopes of luring customers.
“I know it’s crazy but I just want to get people down here," he says. "And I thought, let’s just do this, and my workers were on board. Some were like, no way, and left. But the ones that stayed – now I know they care about the people in Newtown.”
He’ll do anything, he says – free hot dogs. Concerts. Anything to get life back to normal. To turn this neighborhood from a scene of tragedy to one of transformation.
"And Sandy Hook, once was a secret, no longer a secret once more. But it’ll recover. It will take time. It’ll recover," Provenzano says.
Read more in the Connecticut Mirror at ctmirror.org.