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    Monday, July 15, 2024

    Norwich marina improvements ‘coming along,’ co-owner says

    Boater Erik Johnson paints a picnic table at the Marina at American Wharf in Norwich, Thursday, June 13, 2024. The new owners, Brittany and Patrick Dwyer, have been doing renovations since they bought the marina in the fall and are hosting their first public event later this month. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Landscaping improvements are seen at the Marina at American Wharf in Norwich, Thursday, June 13, 2024. The new owners, Brittany and Patrick Dwyer, have been doing renovations since they bought it in the fall and are hosting their first public event later this month. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    New furniture and a festival tent are seen at the Marina at American Wharf in Norwich, Thursday, June 13, 2024. The new owners Brittany and Patrick Dwyer have been doing renovations since they bought the marina in the fall and are hosting their first public event later this month. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Boater Erik Johnson pains a picnic table at the Marina at American Wharf in Norwich, Thursday, June 13, 2024. The new owners, Brittany and Patrick Dwyer, have been doing renovations since they bought the marina in the fall and are hosting their first public event later this month. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Boater Erik Johnson and his dog Karma walk to his boat at the Marina at American Wharf in Norwich on Thursday, June 13, 2024. The new owners, Brittany and Patrick Dwyer, have been doing renovations since they bought it in the fall and are hosting their first public event later this month. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Co-owner Brittany Dwyer points out new landscaping while on a tour of the Marina at American Wharf in Norwich, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Dwyer and her husband, Patrick Dwyer, have been doing renovations since they bought the marina in the fall and are hosting their first public event later this month. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Norwich ― Lights and music now emanate from the new festival tent at the Marina at American Wharf on weekends, and freshly planted blue hydrangeas and freshly painted tables, chairs, railings and buildings greet boaters and guests.

    Brittany and Patrick Dwyer of Somers purchased the nearly 40-year-old marina last October from Joyal Capital Management under the name Patten Marine Holdings LLC. They immediately started major and cosmetic renovations. Their work is starting to show results.

    Brittany Dwyer said 55 boat slips are rented for the season, including 11 year-round boaters, about half the marina’s “usable” slips, she said. The marina has 160 slips in all.

    “Welcome Back Home,” the banner headline on the marina’s website, https://www.americanwharf.com, says.

    The couple brought back the festival tent this spring. Last weekend, it hosted its first event, a wedding. Two high school reunions are scheduled there this weekend.

    “It’s coming along little by little,” Dwyer said.

    Dwyer estimated they have spent over $200,000 on the renovations to date. City officials pegged the couple’s total investment at $1.7 million.

    The city received a $2 million state grant through the state Community Investment Fund. The grant will be used to install new boat fuel tanks and pay for some improvements to Howard T. Brown Park, Norwich Community Development Corp. President Kevin Brown said.

    City leaders hope the Dwyers’ private investment, and the city’s agreement to purchase the long-blighted, vacant former Marina Towers building adjacent to the marina, will help secure an additional $12.7 million CIF grant to continue waterfront improvements and to assess the Marina Towers structure.

    Lights, music and crowds return to marina

    The marina will host its first big public event Friday, June 21, “Havana Night: Salsa at the Marina,” the first of three planned salsa nights with music, dancing, salsa lessons, food and a cigar bar tucked in one corner away from the crowd.

    The event will run from 6:30 to 11 p.m., and admission is free. These Guys Brewing will cater the food. The North of Havana Cigar Lounge will run the cigar booth. Salsa events are planned for Aug. 16 and Sept. 20. Parking is available in the Norwich Transportation Cener across West Main Street from the marina entrance.

    The Dwyers announced this week that Mi Encanto food truck that regularly parks at Brown Park, will move into the long-vacant former ice cream building at the marina’s leased property adjacent to Brown Park. The building’s kitchen is being renovated, and Mi Encanto hopes to move in soon.

    “We are excited to open and bring an area for families to hang out!” co-owner Vanessa Velez said in a text message. “We love seeing the families come to the Food Truck and go for walks along the Docks and can’t wait to see the amount of families increase with the addition of Ice Cream!”

    Dwyer said the marina has a restaurateur lined up for the vacant marina restaurant. The restaurant is being renovated into a heated, year-round venue and is expected to open by July 4.

    The marina plans a 200-person ticketed barbecue event in the tent for the city’s fireworks festival July 5, with a la carte food available for other visitors at the restaurant.

    Four-year Norwich marina boater Erik Johnson credited the Dwyers for the rapid turnaround at the marina. He and his 2-year-old German shepherd, Karma, live year-round on his 2-bedroom, full-kitchen boat docked there.

    “Great things are happening,” Johnson, 55, said. “The place is getting cleaned up. The past few years, the previous owners completely neglected the marina. Something would break and (staff) would have a challenge trying to get it fixed. I think Patrick, and Brittany are nice young blood.”

    Johnson, an instructor training drivers of tandem trailer trucks, volunteered to help sand and refinish wooden railings and this week painted metal picnic tables in the marina’s dark blue color.

    “I do my best to help out around here,” he said.

    More renovations are coming. The office building and the boaters’ swimming pool have been improved. The twin building will be renovated in a year or two as a catering kitchen and a bridal suite.

    A small dockside cedar shack will be available for wedding parties to dress and prepare for the ceremony. Dwyer hopes it can be offered for overnight stays for wedding couples.

    The landscaping makeover, by Hyde Park Landscaping in Norwich, is ongoing. Waterfront areas and lawns around the festival tent are done, with planter boxes, bought from a Stonington supplier, to be filled next. Then the rear areas near the parking lot and entrance will be tackled.

    Hyde Park Vice President Brandon Hyde said the Dwyers are excellent business partners and he was pleased they are hiring local Norwich area contractors for much of the work. Hyde has introduced them to other Norwich business owners.

    “I love them as people and as professionals,” Hyde said, “and as the new owners of the marina. They are going to be bringing in a good restaurateur, which is huge for Norwich.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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