GUILFORD – The summer has been good for the small business owners around the town green — new businesses, old businesses, and new owners of old businesses who spoke to CT Examiner.
“It’s flat,” said Sharon Silvestrini, co-owner of Evergreen Fine Crafts, which is celebrating its 40th year on the green. “Which is good, because last year was fabulous, so we’re running even with last year.”
The 20-cent increase in gas prices last week, Silvestrini said, was the one off note.
“We’re not happy over that,” she said. “It makes it extremely difficult with small businesses. It’s unbelievable.”
Otherwise, aside from a few weeks of 90+ degree heat, everything has been fabulous, Silvestrini said.
“Nobody wanted to shop,” she said of the heat wave. “The last two weeks in July have been the worst. Everything else has been fabulous. We’re surprised, we’re happy. It’s been amazing and I’m blessed to meet here.”
“It’s been surprisingly good for us,” said Wolf Guibbory, co-owner of Vera Wolf Jewelry, which has been in Guilford for 25 years. “It’s been a nice summer this year.”
Guibbory said this was the height of the shopping seasons outside of the holidays, and that business has been steady.
“There’s been a consistency we have seen this year with customers,” he said, “more so than any time prior to the pandemic. People here have been really consistent.”
Amy Earls, Vice President of Operations at Page Hardware, said business is going pretty well, in part due to WalMart shutting down in the spring of 2022 and Bed Bath and Beyond closing this spring.
“That has helped our summer sales tremendously,” she said.
That might change if a new Target opens nearby in 2025.
“It never hurts to start planning,” she said. “We’ll do some field trips and see where the overlap might be.”
And unlike some businesses hurt by the wet weather, for Page Hardware the plentiful rains have brought in the home gardeners.
“Last summer was really dry,” Earls said. “People are replanting their lawns this year. Wet is better than dry. If it’s dry, they’re not mowing, they’re not planting.”
Dani Howard, who bought Breakwater Books with her husband Rob in April, said the regular events nearby on the green have been good for business.
“Usually if it’s raining or extreme hit, business has not been good,” she said, but when summer vacationers and summer homeowners came to town in June, business picked up.
“They need new stuff to read,” she said.
Breakwater Books opened in 1972, and Howard said she’s made some changes to attract more customers, increasing stock of popular books, as well as selling items like ornaments.
Howard said she has also been keeping track of trends, like having a Barbie themed table to coincide with the new film in theaters.
She also has started a banned book club that meets once a month.
“It’s interesting trying to figure it out,” she said.
Jennifer Asbury, owner of The Spice and Tea Exchange, said there has been some ebb and flow to business this year, with summer renters adding to sales and the rains dampening them.
Asbury said she is looking forward to upcoming events on the green that will help keep things busy.
“We have a couple festivals that are coming up,” she said. “We have the St. George’s Church Carnival and we’ve got the farmer’s market that happens at the fairgrounds every Thursday. We have the Jewish Festival coming up in a couple weeks.”
Anna Smith, who is just finishing her first summer as owner of The Village Chocolatier, described the summer as brisk.
“It’s a great location,” she said.
The Village Chocolatier sells ice cream in the summer, a big draw.
“It starts in April and ends in mid-October,” she said. “We have a big ice cream sale to get rid of it all. We’ll advertise it on Instagram. It’ll happen in mid-October. It’ll be $1 a scoop.”
A scoop usually sells for $4.
Smith said she has depended on her employees who have worked at the shop longer than she has to measure the success of the summer.
“I worked here last summer, but I didn’t own it,” she said. “According to employees, it’s been a very good summer.”
Smith said she’s nervous about how they will keep up if business continues to grow over the coming years.
“It’s a wonderful problem to have,” she said. “We’re thrilled with it.”
Gentleman’s Social Outfitter and Supply opened in October and owner Caden Micah said their first summer has been phenomenal.
Micah attributed much of his success to word-of-mouth.
“A lot of our customers have been incredible with word of mouth,” he said. “Also being one of the only men’s stores along the shoreline has helped us.”
The first year, he said, has given him a good sense of what styles appeal to local shoppers and what to stock for future summer seasons.
But now, Micah said, he has to prepare for fall.
“The rest of the summer is almost over,” Micah said. “We stock for fall in two weeks. Then we go into holiday season.”
The last big summer push will come Aug. 20 through 26, he said, as sales tax free week hits.
“It will be a big thing for people coming for back to school shopping,” he said.
First Selectman Matthew Hoey described the summer as “a summer of summers,” with life returning to normal after COVID.
“The boat launch at the marina’s active,” he said. “The kayak racks are sold out once again this year at the beach. The restaurants seem to be doing really well, around the green as well. The Lobster Pound – it’s a lobster place on the pier – that seems to be busy most weekends. We’ve had a couple events on the green, the craft festival, concerts, Sunday night concerts are always well attended. I think it’s been a pretty good summer with the exception of a heat wave that kept people inside.”
Hoey told CT Examiner the town has taken the needed steps to ensure public safety, particularly on the roads, including a “concentrated deterrence program” with police from Branford, North Branford, and North Haven participating.
“I think the trend we’ve been working toward here is to enhance pedestrian and cycling safety,” he said. “Deterring people from speeding and being cautious as drivers.”
And Hoey said there are still plenty of things to do in Guilford this summer, including Sunday concerts on the town green, kayaking, fishing, and boating on Lake Quonnipaug.
“We’ve got hundreds of hiking trails throughout town,” he said.
Heavy rains have spurred multiple closings of Jacobs Beach this summer due to high bacteria counts, but Hoey said it’s not an overarching concern.
“It’s a fact of life,” he said. “When we have big rainfalls, often bacteria levels rise in the water. The bacteria situation is not new. We’re very familiar with it and we learn to live with it.”