'I'm back:' Shelton spirit shop survives fire in new home

SHELTON — Hagop Jarttian enjoyed a thriving business at Shelton Wine and Spirits — that was until Sept. 28, 2020.

Fire ravaged 475 Howe Ave. that morning — displacing Shelton Wine and Spirits and Liberty Taxes, as well as three families in the upstairs apartments. And with the fire and water damage left behind, Jarttian thought his dreams of small business success had gone up in smoke.

“I felt it was over … I’d never be able to come back,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘I’m done.’ ”

He said his dejection came from months of no insurance money and his inability to even dispose of a store full of alcohol that was then considered unsellable. While it did not impact his business, the pandemic did wreak havoc on his ability to restart his operation.

He recalled how difficult it was to get state inspectors out to just authorize disposal of his unsellable product. He also said dealing with the insurance company was made more difficult because no onsite visits were possible — everything had to be done by email.

But despair turned to optimism a couple months ago when he was presented with the chance to rebuild his spirit shop in the former home of a bank.

Jarttian said Ken Schaible, owner of 487 Howe Ave. — with that distinctive bank look — recommended that location. From there, the interior was remodeled with new floors and shelving.

“Seven and a half months later, I’m back … and I’m back in a city I love being a part of,” he said of his new home at 487 Howe Ave.

Now the shelves are lined with varieties of vodka, bourbon and scotch. Coolers are filled with numerous brands of beer, and wine racks feature the top labels.

“I’m happy here in Shelton,” Jarttian, who first purchased the spirit shop some three years, said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to be here, with the rapid development here that will end up bringing dozens of new apartments to the downtown.”

All those potential customers are what he hopes will make Shelton Wine and Spirits a thriving business once again. Since he reopened in the location more than a month ago, he said his business is at 60 percent of what it was prior to the fire.

Jarttian says he plans to hold weekend wine tastings beginning within the next couple weeks. The novelty to his tastings is they are to be held in a bank vault, which remains in the side the building with a vault door that weighs several tons adding to the ambiance.

He says customer service is what separates him — his willingness to get what the customer wants to keep them satisfied. And he added that pleasing Shelton’s residents is so much easier considering the kindness he has always received in the city he knows calls home.

He and his wife, Anna, a hairdresser by trade with her own business in Fairfield, and two children, Joseph and Sophia, recently moved to Shelton.

“I’m really hopeful … but I know I need time, need to be patient,” he said, “but I’m seeing business increase every day. I just need to let people know I’m back … I am still here.”