Hartford 21 Market Owners Say They Will Not Reopen Grocery
By DAN HAAR
December 30, 2011
The Market at Hartford 21 will not reopen under its current owners.
The upscale grocer opened in March as a triumph for the capital city's downtown, then closed in September to rework its approach.
Owners Kelleanne and Ryan Jones had hired 89 employees, mostly city residents, in hopes of bringing a successful food market to a city that badly needs retail vibrancy to go along with a burgeoning cluster of apartments. But the store's mix of customized sandwiches, deli items and entrees, along with produce and dry goods, proved too costly to maintain.
"After much heartfelt thought, Kelleanne and I have come to the conclusion that operating the market is not in the best interests of our family," said Ryan Jones, in a written release issued Friday. "We are grateful to the City for the opportunity to be the first to explore running an urban full-scale grocery store in the city and we are confident that the next operators can create the model to make it work."
The store had the advantage of a multi-million-dollar buildout in space developed by Northland Investment Corp., as part of the Hartford 21 apartment tower in the heart of downtown. But it remains to be seen when and whether a new operator will attempt to reopen a market in the space.
"The Joneses took a bold step in opening a downtown grocery store, and proved that there is a demand and a vibrant constituency for it," Mayor Pedro E. Segarra said in a written release provided by the Joneses' lawyer. "The City will continue to work with Northland to secure a proven operator that can the sustain the market well into the future."
Northland will retain the name, The Market at Hartford 21, as the property owner, the city and others work to find a new owner for the business, said David Panagore, chief operating officer for the city.
Right now we've been working with some local folks. It's going to take a period of time, I can't say how long," Panagore said Friday. "We now have a work plan and we now know what it should cost, and what the market really wants."
Those adjustments, Panagore and others say, include more products on the shelves, less of a labor-intensive approach to serving the food, and added services such as catering.
"It won't necessarily be one operator," said Panagore, who added that the co-op model in use at an apartment tower in downtown New Haven is an option under consideration.
The city kicked in financing of about $400,000, and has not released the Joneses from their share of the debt. The Joneses have received default notices from the city and from Northland, their lawyer, Rich Rochlin, said Friday, but payback terms have not yet been reached.
"We have to look at all options. There's a lot of money at stake," Rochlin said. "Their obligation under the lease certainly still exists but they haven't occupied the space for months."
The Joneses own The Mill at 2T restaurant in the Tariffville section of Simsbury.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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