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    Sunday, March 03, 2024
     

    Taftville businesses see ‘trickle’ of new business from Ponemah Mill complex

     
     
    Therese Trassi, 81, a tenant at The Lofts at Ponemah Mills in Taftville gets a haircut on Nov. 9, 2023 by Joanne Glidden, owner of Hair Do’s at 9 North Second Ave. across the street from the mill. Trassi is one of a handful of customers Hair Do’s has gotten from the mill apartments. (Claire Bessette/The Day)
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    Norwich ― Saad and Nora Qassim, co-owners of Taftville Pizza at 500 Norwich Ave., mailed menus to everyone in the Taftville area, including the 313 apartments at The Lofts at Ponemah, when the couple bought the restaurant 10 months ago.

    The move paid off, as Taftville Pizza delivers orders regularly to Ponemah Mill residents, and the mill leasing office places orders nearly every day.

    But Saad Qassim hopes for more business from the 313 apartments there, with 46 more apartments to come in the second mill building now being renovated.

    “Given the amount of people there, I thought there would be a lot more volume (of business),” Qassim said. “We do go there quite a bit for delivery.”

    He estimated he has six or seven regular customers from the mill. Qassim said about 60% to 70% of the restaurant’s business is takeout orders, so it’s hard to tell how many customers might live at Ponemah Mill.

    Owners of several Taftville businesses said they have not seen a large boost in business from the conversion of the massive former cotton mill into 313 apartments, a mixture of affordable and market rate units. Other than Taftville Pizza, however, the others have not directly advertised to mill residents.

    Joanne Glidden, owner of Hair Do’s salon at 9 N. Second Ave., Taftville, said she has seen “a trickle” of business from Ponemah Mill residents.

    Glidden said she has not advertised to mill residents and is fine with the small boost in new business.

    “I have a handful of new customers from across the street,” she said. “Word of mouth mostly. I had gotten a customer from there who told her neighbor. At the time Ponemah Mill came in, we were so busy, I wasn’t looking to build at that time.”

    Therese Trassi, 81, who grew up in Taftville and was one of the first tenants at Ponemah when she moved in five years ago after retiring and selling her home, is a regular customer at Hair Do’s. She said she did not come to the hair salon before moving to the mill, but her mother had been a customer there, and she enjoys the convenience of getting her hair done across the street from home.

    Glidden’s small, three-chair salon is in the commercial building directly across Route 97 from Ponemah and is owned by Ponemah developer OneKey LLC. The building historically housed the Ponemah mill store and upstairs ballroom and other services for the thousands of mill workers.

    OneKey purchased the building in March 2018 for $170,000 with plans to renovate it and attract businesses that could serve tenants needs, such as a coffeehouse, or cafe, pharmacy and grocery store.

    OneKey General Counsel Louis Kaufman, who has worked on the Ponemah project from the start, said the company has tried repeatedly to bring a grocery store to Taftville with no success, but the company hopes to add an eatery and maybe a convenience store to the former mill corner store building.

    Glidden has owned Hair Do’s in that spot for nearly 25 years, long before OneKey purchased the building. Glidden is very pleased with OneKey’s ownership and maintenance of her building.

    But she is disappointed that efforts to bring new businesses to the building have been slow. A small photography shop moved in for a time but didn’t last, Glidden said. Plans for a tavern on the side facing the mill fell through.

    “Me and the pharmacy are what sticks,” Glidden said.

    Nutmeg Pharmacy moved into the building at 3 N. Second Ave. in March 2019, shortly after OneKey renovated the space. Pharmacy owner and manager Cailin Petersen said she too is seeing “a slow trickle” of customers from Ponemah.

    She has not advertised and has relied on word of mouth among the residents of the mill. She said she too is very pleased with prompt response from the owners if she needs repairs or any issues resolved. Nutmeg also is on the North Second Avenue side but has a sign on the opposite side directly facing the mill.

    “I’m getting some customers from there, once they find out we’re here right across the street and so convenient,” Petersen said.

    When Brenda and Carlos Ventura moved to Norwich in 2010, they knew they could find opportunities to expand their family, alongside their dream of building a business.

    Now, 12 years later, every chair was full on a Saturday afternoon with customers waiting at the brim of the shop to get their haircuts. The couple operates Ventura Barber Shop and Ventura Beauty together on Jewett City Road-Route 12 in Taftville, which opened in 2020.

    Brenda Ventura has watched Taftville steadily grow over the years. She describes the Ponemah Mill’s transformation as a preeminent sign growth is coming.

    “Taftville used to be like the ‘It’ place. And with the years, it kind of got rundown and people started looking at Taftville, (saying), ‘Oh, that's a bad area.’ But I think having the Pomenah Mills and more people moving in, is going to almost motivate people to come and open businesses in this area. I always said Taftville feels like a diamond in the rough,” said Ventura, as she was conditioning the hair of her client.

    Ventura says she’s seen an increase in clients from the mill complex. Pomenah’s revitalization, she added, allows for new residents in the area to explore and patronize local businesses, strengthening the community.

    “Having the barbershop close to the mill is definitely a benefit,” she said.

    c.bessette@theday.com

    t.wright@theday.com

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