On a muggy Monday afternoon, I stepped into Franco’s Wine Merchants, an Elm Street mainstay that has been in operation since 1933. Franco’s specializes in fine wines, single malt scotch and other spirits. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there for a drink – instead I was there to find out their favorite New Canaan product or service for NewCanaanite.com’s “Biz on Biz” feature.
I was greeted by refreshingly cool air, and Carl Franco’s warm smile. When asked what local business he thought deserved recognition, Franco didn’t hesitate before launching into a glowing recommendation of Family Britches, the well-established clothing store on Main Street, where he has been shopping for at least 25 years. “I’ve always liked their personal touch that they give every day when you walk in there,” Franco said.
As part of the “Biz on Biz” series—where local business owners give us tips about favorite products or services at other businesses—we stopped by Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee on Pine Street. Owner Doug Zumbach’s spotlighted design solutions for “unique and different” Christmas gifts, elm for the popular restaurant’s selection of pasta dishes and Family Britches for its menswear. “Family Britches is a great store, with a nice owner, ” said Zumbach, who opened his eponymous coffee shop in 1992 and offers 30 varieties of hand-roasted brews. “I’m a big fan of Canali suits. They have a really nice line and selection of those there.
After some 40 years on Elm Street, high-end clothing shop Family Britches on Wednesday will open in a new location at 99 Main St. in downtown New Canaan. The store will drop its women’s wear business, which its had for about 20 years, and “go back to our roots, which is just a men’s store,” longtime manager Mark Gust told NewCanaanite.com.
“The location we had is just way too big, so we wanted a little bit more intimate setting in a highly trafficked area, and we found this spot,” Gust said as he and others moved merchandise into the new space, formerly occupied by Candy Nichols and long ago, locals will remember, by Gramophone Video. Family Britches had been on Elm Street since the space had been a restaurant, notably the iconic Pierre’s or “Izzy’s Place,” as it commonly was known that operated there from 1944 to 1976. Gust confirmed that Family Britches was dropping its women’s wear business because New Canaan now offers so many options along those lines.
Here’s a short list of sweeping economic crises that have affected, directly or indirectly, every U.S. business since 1982: Black Monday, savings and loan crisis, subprime mortgage crisis and Great Recession. Locally, success in business involves nimbleness and acumen, and far more than that—interpersonal skills, involvement, diligence and imagination. Recently, the head of an organization that’s central for many local businesses, the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce, came by chance across a list of 28 current members that also were members back in 1982. “They’ve supported the chamber, supported the town and been here for a long, long time,” Executive Director Tucker Murphy said. “We want to congratulate them on that.”
Here’s the list, in alphabetical order (not every single business has been a continuous member of the chamber, though many—including Bob’s Sports, Karl Chevrolet, Walter Stewart’s and Stewart’s Spirits—have been):
Brotherhood & Higley
Hersam Acorn- New Canaan Advertiser
Hoyt Funeral Home
Hutchinson Tree Company
League of Women Voters
New Canaan Board of Realtors
New Canaan Community Nursery School
New Canaan Country School
New Canaan Library
New Canaan Nature Center
Roger Sherman Inn
Silvermine Arts Guild
Visiting Nurse Association of New Canaan
Waveny Care Center
Ties to the local chamber run very deep for businesses such as Walter Stewart’s, recently recognized as Business of the Year.