Local coffee and doughnut devotees have reason to rejoice

Bess Eaton is back.

Officials in Stonington and Westerly confirmed Monday that a Westerly man is seeking to reopen the defunct doughnut and coffee chain in two of its most popular former locations.

David Liguori of Westerly is taking steps to reopen stores at 25 W. Broad St. (Route 1) in downtown Pawcatuck and on High Street in Westerly.

Both locations had been among a group of area Tim Hortons doughnut shops after Bess Eaton sold 42 stores to the Canadian chain back in 2004. Late last year, Tim Hortons closed 36 New England stores, including 10 locally, and they have been vacant since.

Since then, there have been rumors that a group of former Bess Eaton employees along with other investors had purchased the Bess Eaton name and recipes and were preparing to resurrect the once- popular brand.

Liguori could not be reached to comment Monday. But in January, former Bess Eaton chief financial officer Paul Gencarelli of Westerly, whose family founded and managed the company, said he understood that a group of Westerly investors had purchased the rights to the Bess Eaton name and the proprietary formulas and were planning to reopen.

The news is sure to please the more than 4,600 people who are fans of the Facebook page "Holler if You Miss Bess Eaton!!!!" Many of them posted their favorite Bess Eaton memories in recent days as they learned of the reopening.

Photos on the page Monday showed a message on the sign at the Westerly location that stated "We're Bringing Back Bess Eaton!"

On Feb. 28, the Town of Stonington issued a zoning permit to change the name of the group using the property as well as change the name on the sign.

Stonington First Selectman Edward Haberek said Monday that the Pawcatuck store is a beautiful location, passed by thousands of people who cross the Pawcatuck River bridge every day. The Tim Hortons closure had been a setback for the town's effort to revitalize downtown Pawcatuck.

"I know Bess Eaton has quite a following, and a lot of people were disappointed when they closed," he said. "It will be great to see it open again."

Meanwhile Liguori has applied for a victualler license to run a coffee shop in the former Bess Eaton location at the intersection of High and Oak streets in Westerly.

The Westerly Licensing Board is scheduled to consider his application when it meets at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Town Hall.

Westerly Town Clerk Donna Giordano said Monday that Liguori has met some of the requirements for the license but still must show that the building has passed fire, health and building code inspections. If Liguori does not have those approvals on Thursday, she said, the board would hold onto the application until they are submitted.

The South County Independent newspaper has also reported that a third Bess Eaton location is being reopened in Wakefield, R.I.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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