OLD LYME —The little yellow house at 96 Halls Road — once a plant nursery, vacant for almost a decade — may soon become Long River Local, a retail food shop featuring local farm produce, prepared foods, sandwiches, salads and coffee.
“We want to connect chefs to farmers to consumers,” said Walker Potts, proprietor of Long River Farm in Old Lyme, who will supply produce to the new shop.
Local chef Shelley DeProto, of the former Red Hen in Old Saybrook and Lupo in Chester, has applied for a special exception change of use from retail to food service for the 1.83-acre site owned by Richard and Barbara Halls.
The market will be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to Andrea Mockford, one of the investors in the enterprise.
“The timing depends on zoning but we hope to open in late June or early July,” she said. “It will be a local food hub. We’ll have prepared foods for breakfast and lunch — all ‘grab and go’ — and eventually dinners. It will not be a traditional cafe but we will have tables outside. People can meet chefs and local farmers, it will be all local food,” she said.
DeProto will be joined on the project by a second chef, Will Dowling, from Boston, Mockford said.
According to the special exception zoning permit application, the project will involve minimal structural modifications to the existing building, including the addition of a porch and upgrades to the siding and roof.
The project includes the construction of a 16- by 10-foot shed that will be used to store tools during the renovations and will be converted to a chicken coop once improvements are completed. The project also requires the installation of a new septic system for wastewater estimated at 700 gallons per day.
Potts said part of the vision for the shop arose from the recognition that it was not feasible for him to build a retail facility at his farm on Tantummaheag Road.
“We’re not zoned for commercial and the location would not lend itself to sales,” he said. “No one wants commercial traffic in the neighborhood.”
The Halls Road property has been in the Halls family for more than 300 years, Potts said.
“It’s an Old Lyme legacy. The family is interested in seeing something other than a pharmacy or a gas station there. We’re planning to be good stewards of the property.”
Potts said the vision includes an educational component for both kids and adults.
“We’d like to have workshops on local agriculture and help people learn to grow their own food,” he said. “We want to connect chefs to farmers to consumers.”
The market will be a distribution hub for produce from local farmers and could eventually include work from local craftspeople and artisans.
“People want to be in touch with their food. It’s about trust and belief in local economies,” Potts said.
Mockford called the enterprise “a hub for local projects and products.”
“We want to bring the community back. We want people to come and hang out and enjoy the food,” she said.
The Zoning Commission will hear the application next month.