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Dave Zajac | Record-Journal
David Ortiz, owner of Feel Fresh Hair Studio, took it upon himself to decorate a Christmas tree recently set up by the City next to Middlesex Community College on West Main St. in downtown Meriden, Wednesday, November 20, 2013. Ortiz's friends, Steve Macri and Nick Willette also helped. | Dave Zajac / Record-Journal

Meriden business owner livens up downtown Christmas tree

MERIDEN — A downtown merchant wasn’t satisfied with the decor of the downtown Christmas tree that stands across from the police and court complex. So Wednesday, David Ortiz and two others added some decorations to lift the holiday spirit.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a few years now, but didn’t have the courage,” said Ortiz, owner of Feel Fresh Hair Studio. “This year it just looked bad and I knew I had to do something more...People talk about making downtown nicer, but we are actually doing something.”

Ortiz rounded up one of his barbers, Nick Willette and a friend, Steve Macri, and the three began putting up decorations including ribbons, golden bells and garland. The tree previously only had strands of vertical lights. Ortiz said he will bring his 2-year-old daughter to see the tree and add an ornament and is encouraging others to do the same to fill it up.

“We want to make this the best tree ever,” Ortiz said, as a handful of students from the adjacent Middlesex Community College looked on. “There’s been a lot of focus on violence in downtown and I think we need a more positive, holiday spirit.”

Though Ortiz considered adding his own decorations in the past, he held back, not wanting to hear the word “no” from city officials. Displeased by the size of this year’s tree, the less-than-full rear of the tree and the overall lack of decorations, Ortiz said it was time to change the tree.

Ortiz added that he is encouraging other downtown businesses to display holiday decorations, noting that Hubbard Park and South Meriden should not be the only places in the city to put up decorations.

The new decorations were “clearly put up out of the goodness of his heart,” said City Councilor Cathy Battista.

“It was very generous of him,” Battista said. “The city always likes help from its citizens to make the city a better place, but it’s always a good idea to include the city beforehand just in case there are other ideas to make it better.”

Battista said she likes the idea and said it could potentially become some type of tradition in the future to include more members of the community. Lights and decorations were put up by the city Monday, said Parks and Recreation Director Mark Zebora, who said the lights will be turned on next Tuesday. He had yet to see the decorations added by Ortiz and others as of Wednesday afternoon. He had concerns about any additional lights being put on, but Ortiz said he did not want to add lights.

“I’ll have to see what they put on,” Zebora said.

Last year, business owners, police and court officials and others in downtown banded together to petition the city for more decoration in the city’s center. With more than 500 signatures, the City Council ended up approving close to $3,000 for holiday flags in downtown. A fully illuminated downtown along West Main and Colony streets could cost up to $50,000, Zebora told the council. Another $3,000 was raised to purchase wreaths for West Main Street and wreaths were added to the Colony Street lampposts this year.

dbrechlin@recordjournal.com 203-317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ



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