Two friends have opened on Fort Hill Road, trying to make a go of a small grocery and prepared food store in a tough economy.
Karen Dole, who owns Buford’s Family Restaurant in Groton City, and Val Ackley, who formerly owned the plumbing business next door, opened the market at 118 Fort Hill Road about two weeks ago and held their grand opening today. The store, called the Central Market, had closed in May.
“The area right here has been accustomed to a convenience grocery,” said Ackley. “We felt that we could bring that back, and get people back in.”
The market is situated near the I-95 interchange, four schools and municipal building.
Dole, of Noank, and Ackley, of Groton, got to know each other as business owners in town. Dole bought Buford’s in April 2007, and it needed plumbing work, so she went next door to Ackley’s shop.
Two years later, Dole moved into a duplex that a relative owned on North Road. It turned out Ackley lived next door.
“So we saw each other every day,” Dole said.
Then one day, she said she stopped at a prepared food store in Old Saybrook, and was struck by how busy it was. She suddenly felt inspired; she believed Groton needed a store like this, and brought Ackley to see it.
The two decided to make a go of it. They looked at space near the Big Y, but decided it was too small, so they put the idea away temporarily. Then The Bridge Market closed in May.
Ackley’s father and uncle own the shopping center where the store is located, so the two women negotiated a lease and began renovating.
They added an ice cream parlor, a coffee center, baked goods area, renovated the deli and stocked refrigerated areas with prepared foods. Dole’s staff at Buford’s cook and package the meals, but the two are installing a kitchen at the market, so meals will be cooked there in the future. The staff of 10 will about double, Dole said.
The two women also plan on starting a catering business. The store has a small area for people to stop and eat sandwiches, and a kids corner near the ice cream parlor .
“Both Val and I have grandkids, so we wanted to have the kids corner so they could spend an hour or two with us,” Dole said.
Sue Aguiar, who manages the package store next door, said she eats at the market every day.
“We want to keep them going," she said. “I grew up here. That’s what we need. We need this store.”