For months after the Newtown school shootings last December, area shops and restaurants struggled to find customers in the Sandy Hook neighborhood. That trend may finally be reversing as a number of new businesses open up.
I’m standing at the doorway of Foundry Kitchen and Grill, a new restaurant in the Newtown neighborhood of Sandy Hook. Back in March this place was still under construction. Now, it’s buzzing with diners, even during lunch hour in a district that’s lost one of its major daytime customer bases: Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“When I first spoke of taking this place over, I probably had twenty people that I respect that told me not to do it," recalls Chris Bruno, chef and owner of the restaurant.
After the restaurant that used to be here closed earlier this year, he signed the lease for the space almost immediately.
“We never faltered. We just went straight ahead with it. And I’m very glad we did. Because the respond has been what we expected," Bruno says.
In fact, it’s been better. Bruno’s been serving 1200 guests a week. He had expected the number to be about 700.
Next door, what used to be a coffee shop called the Demitasse Café has also undergone a transformation. It closed soon after the Newtown shootings but recently reopened as the Village Perk Cafe.
Benjamin Rosado is a manager here. He says business has slowly been picking up. The quaint New England downtown atmosphere in Sandy Hook, with a brook that runs through its center and century-old buildings, has always been a draw.
“Flow’s definitely been picking up," Rosado says. "I think with the patio that we’ve got out back, the river, the view, definitely people are going to start coming in when it gets warmer out."
Rosado doesn’t think what happened just a mile away at Sandy Hook Elementary School will keep affecting business here for much longer. Small-town cafes like this one, he says, can be a key part of the healing process.
“When a tragedy like that happens, it usually brings communities together," he says, "and we’re trying to be that spot where everyone can come and feel like this is home.”
Now that Newtown has decided to build the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in the same location, that can only contribute to the success of these businesses in the future.