New owner, same name for Silva's Package Store
Waterford — After three generations and more than 70 years of family ownership, Silva's Package Store is no longer owned by the Silva family.
In the first few weeks after John Silva left his role – after he sold the building and new management took over on Dec. 1 – he felt a little lost. Silva, 57, had been working at the package store since his dad died in 1983.
But he thought it was time to try something different, and Silva now goes from store to store working for Ace Distributing, out of Plainville.
"I love it," he said. "I'm out and about, not standing in one spot."
Silva said that while "brokenhearted," none of his three kids wanted to take over the business. But he was pleased to be able to sell to someone he has known for years: Pam Sit, a Waterford High School alumna whose family owns China House in New London.
Silva said he has known Sit since she was 15. He used to be her customer at China House.
Sit, whose family moved from China to Waterford when she was 10, has been away from Waterford for 20 years and is ready to come back.
After studying finance at the University of Connecticut, she worked in the insurance sector in Hartford for five years. For the past 15 years, she has owned First Garden restaurant in Guilford, where she lives with her husband and three kids, ages 7, 10 and 12.
Guilford is her husband's hometown, but in the summer, they're planning to move to her hometown, and to sell First Garden.
Sit wants to be back in Waterford, closer to her family. She loves the beach here. She loves running at Harkness Memorial State Park. And she loves the people.
Since taking over ownership of Silva's, Sit has seen examples of the sense of community pulling her back, between people shoveling her parking lot, and the woman who brought her banana cake on Tuesday as thanks for Sit bringing the customer's bags out to her car.
Sit is adding lights around the building to make it brighter at night, and she plans on fixing up the building and the parking lot, but a lot of things are staying the same – like the name.
"This is like a landmark," Sit said. "People are like, 'Turn at Silva's.' He's my friend; why bother to change the name?"
John Silva's grandparents bought the package store in 1946. In 1980, his father, Edward J. Silva, Jr., took it over.
Due to its proximity to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Silva's Package Store has sold alcohol to Michael Douglas and Robert Redford, Silva said.
He has observed changes in alcohol preferences over his decades of work at the store, from the popularity of expensive wines in the '90s to the current craze of craft beers, with customers spending up to $30 on a four-pack.
He also noted, "Right now what's popular is the 99 cent nips. They're everywhere. I would've never expected stores to see displays of nips."
Silva's Package Store has supported the community over the years by doing fundraisers for organizations like the Waterford Soccer Club and St. Joseph School.
Silva's kids grew up in the store, and so when one of his sons went off to college in Boston and applied for a job at a liquor store, he already had years of experience.
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