‘The Cultivated Collector’: Classic and Exotic Car Showroom, Clubhouse Planned for Vitti Street

A new business featuring classic and exotic cars is slated to open this spring in a largely disused Vitti Street lot and structure that once housed an auto body shop—the latest dramatic change in a corner of downtown New Canaan where officials envision a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.

19 Vitti St. in New Canaan, future home of ‘The Cultivated Collector.’ Credit: Michael Dinan

‘The Cultivated Collector’ at 19 Vitti St. will include a street-level showroom of what founder Matthew Ivanhoe called “investment-grade collectible vehicles,” second-level “clubhouse” for auto enthusiasts seeking camaraderie and connections to services for the owners of the valuable cars themselves.

“It is our objective to be a shining cultural Mecca that represents the town,” Ivanhoe, a Greenwich resident and former principal at a Bedford Hills, N.Y.-based auto business that last year sponsored New Canaan’s popular Caffeine & Carburetors gathering.

“We are not just car enthusiasts—we are art collectors, we are wine collectors, we are watch collectors, and we hope to share that with the town and be a beacon that represents the change that this area is undergoing.”

Ivanhoe underscored that The Cultivated Collector will serve as a passive space for auto enthusiasts and is not a repair shop or anything similar. The enterprise seeks to be “a really good neighbor” to residents on East Avenue to the south as well as those who will occupy the residential units of a new mixed-use development at 23 Vitti St. next door, approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission in November.

“My intention is to give back to the community and make sure that I am welcomed and appreciated by the community,” Ivanhoe told NewCanaanite.com. “We are not doing anything to upset any members of community. Our events will never spill out into the street causing chaos.”

The new mixed-use building at 16 Cross St. is on track for a spring launch. Credit: Michael Dinan

The launch of The Cultivated Collector comes as the organizers of Caffeine & Carburetors—Doug Zumbach, Peter Bush and Todd Brown, whom Ivanhoe said he calls friends—hit pause on that event for 2017. With the new mixed-use building next door and another at 16 Cross St. that’s nearly finished, the new business also represents the most recent example of a carefully plotted renaissance for the Cross-Vitti corridor. Following multiple public hearings and forums designed to garner feedback from town and neighborhood stakeholders, P&Z with a third-party consultant laid out the guiding principles for Cross-Vitti in a comprehensive master plan.

The .33-acre property at 19 Vitti St., including a 4,680-square-foot concrete structure, sold Feb. 1 for $2,580,000 to a limited liability company called Ivanhoe Collective LLC, land records show. Two days later, the town Building Department received an application to demolish closets and a “DJ booth” on its first floor that had been added to the original building (the structure had served as a base for a local Young Life group in recent years).

The Cultivated Collector is still in its very early stages, according to Ivanhoe—“We just moved in,” he said—though the business will focus, in part, on serving those who own or may seek to own collectible classic and specialty autos.

“First and foremost, we are car enthusiasts supporting car enthusiasts,” he said. “We curate classic and exotic car collections and ‘curate’ means everything from buy and sell to collections management—which means everything from they are tended to properly so they are being cleaned to mechanically maintained to overseeing Pebble Beach restorations—we have won at Pebble in the past—and doing what I call ‘provenance building,’ which is anything from taking cars of a certain significance to a certain show and presenting it with the objective of winning to help build stories.”

He also has inchoate plans for a “strong club environment.”

Ivanhoe said part of his goal with The Cultivated Collector is to foster a “strong club environment” where enthusiasts can “come hang out, have a cup of coffee, see good cars with friends and watch some racing upstairs.”

“We will build out a clubhouse with a nice TV and great sound and seating, with all the proper clubhouse amenities,” he said.

His short-term goals are focused on making the existing structure presentable, clean and equipped, and in the long-term there may be an opportunity to build onto or redo it into something more “purpose-built,” Ivanhoe said.

Asked whether more casual fans of automobiles would be attracted to The Cultivated Collector, Ivanhoe said: “I certainly think so, and it is my intention to welcome all of them because my experience always has been that when people understand the stories and the fun and all the things one can do with these cars, that people want to become more involved with them. And at the end of the day, we are crazy car enthusiasts ourselves.”

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