Newtown, Conn., Businesses Suffer After Nearby School Shooting
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And we're also reporting on the aftermath of another tragedy. Four months after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, residents in Newtown, Connecticut are still trying to move forward. And the same goes for business owners, especially in Sandy Hook Village, just a mile from the school.
Neena Satija of member station WNPR has more.
NEENA SATIJA, BYLINE: Sandy Hook Village is a quintessential New England downtown. Businesses are clustered in picturesque century-old buildings. A brook runs through the center of the district.
Before December 14th, customers would have packed PJ's Laundromat during this Monday lunch hour. Now it's nearly empty, like the rest of the businesses in Sandy Hook Village. Owner Sharon Doherty knows why.
SHARON DOHERTY: All the teachers, the delivery people, the staff at the school, you know, used to come through here every single day, the parents bringing their kids to and from.
SATIJA: But now, Sandy Hook elementary is closed. Students are attending a different school in a different city. Doherty says it's not just the lost traffic from the school that's affected this area. People living nearby don't visit anymore.
DOHERTY: I've had several people say that they just didn't feel comfortable coming down here.
SATIJA: Even a half-million dollar grant from the State of Connecticut hasn't helped. The Demitasse CafÃ©, with its free Wi-Fi and cozy atmosphere, was full of reporters in December. Now it's boarded up. So is the Stone River Grille next door.
Elizabeth Stocker is director of Newtown's Economic Development Commission. Like everyone here, she says businesses are trying to adjust.
ELIZABETH STOCKER: How do they move forward? How do they continue to work and enjoy their livelihood? I think that there's just - it's something that you really can't prepare for.
SATIJA: Stocker says it's as though a big economic generator, like a hospital or a factory, suddenly left town. It might be coming back, but no one knows for sure. The town is still debating the school's future. If it leaves, Stocker says, these businesses will be in a difficult position.
STOCKER: They might need to do some new promotions. They might need to do some other events that will help their business grow, as they move forward and deal with the new normal.
SATIJA: Whatever happens, Stocker believes things will turn around. Spring should breathe some life into Sandy Hook Village. And even now there is hope...
(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)
CHRIS BRUNO: Up here we're going to do what's called charcuterie and cheeses and chocolates. It's going to look similar to a sushi bar but it's something that's doing quite well in the city.
SATIJA: That's Chris Bruno. In a few weeks, he'll open the Foundry Kitchen and Tavern in place of the Stone River Grille. A hundred and fifty years ago, this building started off as a general store.
BRUNO: It has its original luster, that old-world feel. It just emanates coziness, and comfort and approachability.
SATIJA: Bruno snapped up the property in January. What has had happened just weeks before didn't faze him, it inspired him.
BRUNO: People did try to discourage me from taking this space, and I just really felt like this is where I wanted to be. I see life here. I see life is going on
SATIJA: And for many people in Newtown like Bruno, what they want is to turn this neighborhood, from a scene of tragedy, to one of renewal.
For NPR News, I'm Neena Satija.
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