New food market likely to open in late May in Shelton

The owners of the natural foods store moving into the former Beechwood Market site now are hoping for a late May opening.

They originally had hoped to open the new establishment in Huntington Center earlier, but the renovation work has taken longer than anticipated, partly due to the harsh winter.

“We did know it would take a while going in,” said Joshua Elliott, one of three people involved in the new store.

Elliott said the goal is to have a soft opening of the Common Bond Market by Memorial Day weekend.

A soft opening will allow the owners to get a feel for what people in this area want in the store, said Elliott, a recent law school graduate who will oversee the Shelton operation.

Work began last fall

Renovation work began last November on the 6,500-square-foot store, which has been essentially gutted on the inside. On the outside, the landlord has upgraded the facade and added a new entryway, which is almost complete.

Signs in the new entryway that say “Now Hiring” and “Visit [the new store’s website]” have attracted plenty of public attention since being put up more than a week ago, and led to many people asking when the market will open.

“We’re getting lots of feedback,” Elliott said. “People are excited.”

Elliott said the store has received well over 100 job applications, many through word of mouth, and most positions have been filled.

The inside has been scrubbed clean and painted, new HVAC equipment has been added, and soon a new outdoor sign with the market’s logo will be installed. Most shelving has been put in (this includes some new and some pre-existing shelving), and new lighting fixtures have been added.

Beechwood Market closed unexpectedly in late August after more than a half-century in Shelton.

‘A cohesive bond between people’

The new market’s name comes from Elliott’s vision of food as something that brings people together, such as when families or friends share meals. “I see food as a cohesive bond between people,” he said.

The owners are affiliated with the Thyme & Season natural foods market in Hamden, in business since 1997. Elliott said the new location means regular customers from this area — including Shelton, Milford and Monroe — won’t have to travel all the way to the Hamden anymore.

The area’s demographics and corporate activity and the location’s traffic count are favorable for the business, he said.

Elliott is partnering with his mother, Mary Ellen Stearman, and her fiancé, Mark Woollard, on the establishment.

Stearman owns Thyme & Season and was one of the founders of the FoodWorks natural foods markets, with stores in suburban towns east of New Haven as well as one in Monroe. She is no longer involved with FoodWorks.

Common Bond will be a separate business. “We’re essentially starting from scratch,” Elliott said.

He said his mother has taught him the importance of excellent service, good organization, cleanliness, and “treating everyone really well.”

Will offer prepared foods, too

In addition to offering fresh produce and packaged, refrigerated and frozen foods, the Common Bond Market will have a deli counter and sell hot and prepared foods (what Elliott calls “grab-and-go”). The market also will offer hot breakfast items.

Elliott hopes to have the kitchen fully operational by late May, although there is a chance that may take slightly longer.

A bulk-bin area will offer such items as coffee, cereal, nuts, pasta, rice, and trail mix. In addition, the store will sell nutritional supplements such as vitamins and powders as well as health and beauty items.

Hours at Common Bond Market will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Loyal customer base

Elliott said by doing things correctly, Thyme & Season has retained many longtime employees and built a strong customer case — and he plans to duplicate that success in Shelton. “People can become very loyal,” he said.

Like Thyme & Season, the Common Bond Market will offer lectures, other presentations, and tastings.

Elliott, who grew up in the Shoreline area east of New Haven, also has been getting to better know members of the Shelton community in recent months.

In addition, he’s acted in two Center Stage Theatre plays in Shelton.