Organic food maker opens new facility in North Stonington
North Stonington — The grand opening Thursday of a 28,000-square-foot organic food warehouse and office building marked the completion of the first of a three-phase plan for the former Randall's Ordinary Inn & Restaurant property.
The new home to Euro-USA Trading Co., the Italian manufacturer of the Jovial and Bionaturae organic food brands, sits on a 28-acre site that includes the 1685 John Randall Homestead, along with the historic inn where, up until about a decade ago, traditional New England meals were prepared.
Both the inn and the homestead will be restored in the second two phases of the project. But Thursday's celebration, attracting about 150 invited guests, was more about the 20-year-old Italian food business that plans to distribute 15 million packages a year from its new facility.
"I managed every square inch of this building, and then I changed my mind at least 1,000 times," said company president and co-founder Carla Bartolucci, who grew up in New London and now lives most of the year in Italy.
Bartolucci, who met husband Rodolfo in Bologna while taking a year abroad to study Italian, said she and her family used to enjoy open-hearth cooking at Randall's Ordinary when she was a kid. She had fond memories of the property, and the company bought the site nearly two years ago for $700,000.
"It's great to be able to come full circle," she said.
Harvey Perry, whose grandfather acquired the property in 1926 and who lived on site for four years in the 1970s, said it has been heartbreaking to see the disintegration of the buildings over the past decade. But he said he was delighted at the stewardship shown by the Bartoluccis.
"We just can't imagine a better solution," he said. "We just can't imagine better hands for this property to be in at this time."
State Rep. Diana Urban, D-Stonington, called the new building a work of art and said that the changes to the site have enhanced the property rather than ruining it.
"It's amazing what you have done here," Urban said. "You have built an international presence to this little town of North Stonington."
Formerly headquartered in Franklin, Euro-USA Trading makes its organic food brands at manufacturing facilities in Italy. The North Stonington property focuses on research and development, marketing, finance and shipping, employing about 30 people.
The warehouse is the sole U.S. distribution center for Euro-USA Trading. It previously had been housed in North Franklin.
Company spokeswoman Marge Selinger, in a tour of the new facility, noted that a large portion of the distribution center had been built into a hill, minimizing its height. She said 6,000 pounds of joint compound, 1,150 sheets of sheetrock and 60,000 pieces of dry wall had been used in the construction.
"Distribution is all over the United States," she said, including Whole Foods, McQuade's, ShopRite and Stop & Shop.
An all-white test kitchen above the office area features Carrara marble imported from Italy — the same type of marble that Michaelangelo used in his famed statue of David. The kitchen is used in YouTube videos that promote the companies' products.
An online store accounts for about 10 percent of sales. Food lines include olive oil, pasta, tomatoes and cookies.
"We believed organic foods would be really popular," Bartolucci said. "We wanted to be the premier line of organic foods for Italy."
Among the plans for the next two phases of the property are to host cooking classes and culinary getaways. The 17th century house, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been linked to the Underground Railroad because the Randalls were abolitionists, Selinger said.
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