BERLIN — Flowers may soon be returning to the former Kensington Garden Center on the Chamberlain Highway as two locals plan to reopen under the name Connecticut Grows.
“The biggest thing we want to do is beautify the area,” said Dan Laviana, who is partnering with Jon Veneziano to purchase and reopen the nursery.
Veneziano will be handling the business side of the operation, while Laviana puts his green thumb to use.
The last major hurdle — Planning and Zoning Commission approval to re-open a retail garden center — was cleared last month. At the Jan. 23 PZC meeting, Laviana said they plan to mainly operate as a wholesale distributor and will open the retail garden center mostly during spring and summer.
"A lot of the independent garden centers and retail centers that you see, not just only in Berlin ... have closed down because you can't sustain a garden center with these big box-store chains,” Laviana said. “So that's the big reason why we
want to bring a wholesale aspect.”
Kensington Garden Center closed in 2018 after operating at 398 Chamberlain Highway for around five years.
During last month’s PZC meeting, Acting Town Planner Maureen Giusti said the operation Connecticut Grows is planning appears to comply with the town’s present land use regulations.
Berlin resident Rhonda Olisky said she’s excited about the project because it’s brought her son, Veneziano, back to Connecticut and because of her ties to Berlin’s past.
“I remember Berlin as a really quiet, small town with lots and lots of farms, tractors going down the streets,” she said.
Olisky, whose grandparents operated local farms, believes the town could benefit from a place where gardeners can purchase Berlin-grown plants.
“They (will) rejuvenate an existing infrastructure that once was a nursery and garden center,” she said. “And they are an agricultural business, which is part of the green industry, which I think our world needs a lot more of.”
The site currently has one functional greenhouse they can begin planting in as early as mid-February. The partners are hoping to rebuild a second greenhouse that was demolished after it was damaged by snow.
Laviana said they’re planning to operate on a small scale, with only a couple trucks per day to service retailers in New England.
Town Economic Development Director Chris Edge said Connecticut Grows appears to be a good fit for the surrounding residential area, with hours that won’t be disruptive and owners who want to work with neighbors and the town.