Letter: Second Ward alderman candidate responds to charges of past due taxes

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Contributed photo

To the Editor:

It has come to my attention that the Lauretti team has decided to “expose” the outstanding tax bills from my former businesses, Liquid Lunch, LLC, and JSBR Enterprises (DBA GROW). While these are valid, outstanding bills, these desperate tactics are uninventive and uninspired. Rather than giving the people of Shelton any creative ideas for moving forward, the RTC has chosen to focus on tasteless personal attacks. At the end of the day I’m not mad, I’m disappointed.

I want to share with you my story, as I would like for you to understand the complete picture of who I am. Fred and I started our business in 2004 and it took off like wildfire. We were consistently approached to expand and we took as many opportunities as we thought we could manage. We were growing at a good rate until decided to open a fourth location in Fairfield. We had just had our sixth child and effectively running the business, while managing four locations and raising six children, became a breaking point. We realized — too late — that we simply could not scale to that level.

We finally cut the cord after nine months, but by then, we had fallen behind on our bills and the penalties and interest began to bury us. After endless sleepless nights and a lot of penny pinching, we began to start turn our situation back around.

Then came the fire.

In January, 2014, catastrophic fire destroyed the building next to ours. I will be forever in awe of our incredible volunteer firefighters, who cleared the building of its 26 inhabitants, at 1 in the morning, with zero casualties. Unfortunately, the smoke and water damage to our restaurant was devastating. And what’s more, we soon learned that our “comprehensive” insurance policy was “severely inadequate,” as a public adjuster put it to us.

We agonized over letting 434 Howe Ave. go, but we dearly loved the location in downtown Shelton and wanted to keep moving forward. After a lot of hard work and amazing support from our community, we re-opened as GROW in September of 2015.

GROW was a beautiful, locally-sourced, farm-to-table restaurant. And yet, even as we were “growing” the business, the past of our Liquid Lunch struggles became too much to overcome. We finally had to make the difficult decision to close all our other locations and concentrate on the restaurant.

The proverbial “nail in the coffin” came in September of 2017, when we were notified that the building we had occupied for 13 years was being sold. GROW’s doors would have to close. By then, we were overtired, over-extended, and our kids were missing us all the time. We eventually saw it as a blessing in disguise, but it was then that we began the painful, long, embarrassing journey of a small business failure.

To keep our home, it was necessary for us to begin the process of bankruptcy protection. It took almost three excruciating years to finalize, but at long last, it was done. We are currently in a payment plan for our federal and state taxes and have only recently begun to tackle the issue of local taxes, something the Lauretti team has chosen to exploit.

I do not share this story to gain sympathy, I am proud of our story because it has brought us to exactly where we are — and I love where we are. We are surrounded by friends and loved ones, many of whom walked through our doors of our business and became family. We have gained invaluable knowledge and an understanding of small business leadership that cannot be learned in any textbooks, and we are better for it.

Michelle Bialek

Second Ward Alderman candidate