Starrwood Food Market in Taftville to close
Norwich — Starrwood Food Market is closing in a few weeks, leaving residents of Taftville without a convenient grocery store option.
Manager Raj Patel said Thursday that the market is closing in two or three weeks, because the landlord is not helping to fix the roof, which has had problems leaking.
Records in City Hall show that Central Houston Holding LLC — in Mineola, NY — has owned the building at 20 Norwich Ave. since 2003. The company did not respond on Thursday to a phone call seeking comment.
"We could never get the property manager to do anything over there," said Greg Arpin, Norwich assistant building official.
The building department on May 11, 2017, issued a permit to apply new roofing material to the area above Starrwood, but Arpin said Central Houston Holding LLC didn't use the product they said they were going to use. He said he asked repeatedly for information about what they used but never got it.
Arpin said he has been dealing with electrical and other issues across the building, which includes other businesses, for several years.
"If it wasn't for Starrwood being such good people, we would've shut them down a long time ago," Arpin said. The "good people" he was referring to are the owners of the market itself, who took over in 2015. The previous operators were Bill Starr and Steve Wood, who in 2010 took over operations of the Village Market in Ledyard.
Letters in the building department show issues with Central Houston Holding LLC going back years.
In April of 2015, Arpin wrote a letter saying 20 Norwich Ave. needed immediate electrical repairs, and he threatened termination of electrical service on more than one occasion.
In May of 2010, he sent a notice to the property owners for doing roof work without a permit. That October, he wrote that "roofing material has been installed contrary to the manufacturer's installation instructions."
Central Houston Holding LLC leases the land from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich, and Arpin said Bishop Michael Cote has been unable to get the company to do work either.
Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said he visited Starrwood on Thursday to talk to the store manager but has known for a few months that the store was planning to close.
Nystrom said he and the Norwich Community Development Corp., the city's economic development agency, will try to help the store owners find a new location in the Taftville area for the neighborhood grocery store.
"Certainly, a grocery in Taftville would make sense with everything going on there," Nystrom said. "I told them I would work with them in any way I can to keep them in the city."
The market is a short distance from the Ponemah Mill complex, which is being renovated into 237 apartments called the Lofts at Ponemah Mill, and a second 169-unit complex, The Hills at Riverview, both on Route 97 in Taftville.
Nystrom said the store owners were frustrated at the lack of maintenance by the building owner over the years. The grocery store freezer units are considered part of the building, and they have been failing. The units are so old, it has been difficult for the store owners to get parts, he said, and they ran into problems at times with the health department.
The freezer units have been damaged by water from the leaking roof, Nystrom said.
Nystrom said the taxes are current on the building, but he is concerned that given the condition of the building, it would be difficult to find a new tenant.
"It's unfortunate that we're losing any food service and food providers to the area," said Finbar O'Neill, director of operations for the developer of Ponemah Mill. "I really was hoping that we'd be gaining some rather than losing them."
He said he'd love to have something like Starrwood at Ponemah Mill, and that he would have a consultant reach out to the market owners. OneKey LLC, which is developing the apartments in the largest mill building, also owns a second building in the complex and recently purchased a commercial building across from the mill.
Shoppers leaving Starrwood on Thursday expressed disappointment at the loss of a convenient option, and that they would now have to go to a chain like Stop & Shop or Walmart.
Laurie Remondi, who said she has been shopping at Starrwood for 13 or 14 years, said the imminent closure doesn't surprise her, because she's been watching the store go backwards.
But with its location between her home and the barn where she has a horse, Starrwood has been convenient for her.
"I just hope that somebody else takes over and another grocery store comes back," she said.
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