In New Canaan, local merchants aren’t just people who sell us things: They’re our neighbors, our high school classmates, our kids’ youth sports coaches, our friends and often they’re the first people in town to give of their time, expertise, products and services to support human services organizations here.
Over the past decade, give or take a couple of rounds of musical chairs on the New Canaan dining scene, Chef Luis has created a restaurant that’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s a game-day go-to, a fixture on the local shortlist for lunches with friends and date nights, and a dog-friendly outdoor patio in warm weather. Just don’t call it Mexican. Owner & head chef Luis Lopez will always crank out a dependable list of greatest Tex-Mex hits, like perfectly-turned pork shoulder Al Pastor and skirt steak fajitas. His La Americana Burger is decidedly one of the town’s very best.
Laura Waitz, executive vice president and COO at Bankwell, had a vision when the company decided to move its headquarters to New Canaan two years ago.
The largest private employer in New Canaan at 100-plus workers is “a relationship bank,” Waitz, a New Canaan resident, said on a recent morning from the second-floor conference room of Bankwell, located at the corner of Elm and Grove Streets. “It’s all about building relationships in business and for our employees and for the community we work in,” she said. “So when we expanded and brought so many more people to New Canaan it was about being a partner to the community, as well. And that was critically important and I wanted a workplace that was peaceful and serene and didn’t look ‘corporate banking’ but that would provide a welcoming, collaborative environment.”
In designing it, Bankwell—which already donates to more than 200 organizations per year, with focus on children, education, food insecurity, homelessness and financial literacy—hired, contracted and otherwise worked with dozens of New Canaan businesses. The bank’s placid and functional workspace includes conference room pieces handcrafted by New Canaan’s gifted furniture designer maker, Tom Throop of Black Creek Designs, a custom-made 300-gallon aquarium from Randy Jahier of Life Aquatic on Park Street, walls lined with the work of local artist Elena McCoy and photography from CAS Gallery on Elm Street, gardens planted by Gregg’s Garden Center and Landscaping on Grove Street, with year-round outdoor furniture from Against the Grain on Main Street.
A medical clinic is planned for the first floor of a Pine Street building long associated by locals with a gym. The One Medical facility at 22 Pine St. will include “ all uses incidental to a primary care medical practice,” according to an application filed with the Planning & Zoning Commission, such as drawing blood and laboratory services.
“One Medical’s modern, hospitality-focused approach to healthcare provides a unique platform for consumers to maintain their health and well-being in convenient, highly accessible places,” said the application, filed by Alan Montufar, a senior designer with Seattle-based CallisonRTKL Inc. “We look forward to bringing this convenience and quality to the residents and workers of New Canaan.”
Under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, general and medical offices no larger than 10,000 square feet are permitted in the Business A zone with site plan approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission (see page 78 here).
The building at 22 Pine had received a major makeover in becoming Oxygen Fitness in 2013, then COMBINE-X Fitness (whose owners said this past summer they were rebranding as House of Telos and received P&Z approval to move to Forest Street). P&Z is expected to take up the site plan application for One Medical at its regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday. About 10 to 12 patients are expected to be on site at the medical clinic at any time, according to the application.
‘Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market. Generally, this column covers restaurants, activities, shops, and experiences in New Canaan. While Tavern at GrayBarns is technically in Norwalk, don’t tell that to the many New Canaanites who claim it as their hometown’s best special occasion restaurant. Here’s one for the suggestion box: Unspecial Occasion Dining.
I’m never mad at birthday dinners, anniversary dates, or the swilling of swanky holiday cocktails while a jazz trio plays nearby. Those are all perfectly fun, if well-trodden, occasions upon which to break out the Dry Clean Only. But I would, and often do, trade every single one of them in for the grown-up thrill of impulsively convening a nice restaurant meal for no reason whatsoever.
The popular owner of one of New Canaan’s most beloved pizzerias is asking locals to be patient as he works through health problems that have forced its temporary closing. Asked what he’d say to the many loyal customers of Joe’s Pizza on Locust Avenue, Lorenzo Colella said, “I just want them to be patient with me and I love them and appreciate all of their support.”
He added, “It’s just hard being away from them, my family and New Canaan.”
Colella spoke from Hartford Hospital, where he’s undergone a battery of tests for the past week following a yet-undiagnosed heart issue that first appeared Aug. 19 and re-emerged last Wednesday, prompting an emergency admission at Hartford following a consultation at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. Asked what New Canaanites can do to support him, Colella said, “Just prayers.”
“My wife’s got it down for now, and my mother-in-law,” he said.