New food store coming to Beechwood site in Shelton's Huntington Center

A natural foods market with fresh produce, prepared foods to go, a deli, bulk-bin areas and nutritional supplements will open in the former Beechwood Market in Huntington Center.

The Common Bond Market will be owned and operated by three people with connections to Thyme & Season, a similar establishment in business since 1997 in Hamden.

“We’ve been looking for awhile to open a new location,” said Josh Elliott, who will oversee the Shelton store.

The goal is to have the Common Bond Market up and running by mid-February. “We’re super excited,” Elliott said of the location.

The new owners signed a lease with the property owner a few weeks ago, and extensive interior renovations now are under way.

“We’ve been here every day, and are gutting the place,” Elliott said. “We want to do it right and that involves taking the place apart.”

Some exterior changes expected, too

The market will have a new floor, shelves, ceiling and check-out counters. The landlord is expected to make some related upgrades to the building’s exterior facade.

Elliott will be 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.

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

Sees food as a bond

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.

Food stores serve people better when they are “localized,” he said, especially in this era of big-box stores.

The new market will work with local vendors and companies. “We can help these businesses and producers,” Elliott said.

He said one of the store’s strong points will be the staff, noting Thyme & Season has many longtime employees. “We will have an excellent core staff,” he said.

Creating a relationship with customers

Another positive, Elliott said, will be having “a good dialog with our customers, so we’re selling what they want.”

He said by doing things correctly, Thyme & Season has built a strong customer case. “People can become very loyal,” he said. “We almost have a ‘fan base.’ We are on a first-name basis with our customers.”

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

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

A committed landlord

The Huntington Center location is about 6,500 square feet, plus a side loading dock.

The building is owned by an entity with many partners, and Elliott said the landlord is “committed” to helping the new business succeed. “We will provide a strong anchor store,” he said.

He now is working with city officials on securing the necessary permits, but expects few obstacles since the use will be essentially the same as with Beechwood Market.

The new store will still have refrigerators and freezers in the rear. The bulk-bin area will offer items such as coffee, cereal, nuts, pasta, rice and trail mix.

He said about a third of the Hamden store’s interior is devoted to nutritional supplements, such as vitamins and protein powders, and that could be the case in Shelton as well.

Recent law school graduate

Elliott, who is in his late 20s, recently graduated from Quinnipiac University Law School, and lives in Hamden. He grew up in Guilford.

He said Huntington reminds him a lot of Guilford, with its town green, country look and historic buildings.

Elliott described Shelton as “a burgeoning town,” with a large employment base. “A lot of money is being put into this town,” he said.

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

He expects to initially hire from 20 to 25 people, both full and part time. Thyme & Season in Hamden has 39 employees.