MERIDEN — The Meriden Mall welcomed a new and unique addition recently called Petrillo’s Fairs and Festivals, a company that produces free, fun events for the entire family to enjoy.
“This is a great concept to draw more people into the mall,” said Rosanne Ford, president of the Midstate Chamber of Commerce. “So you know they’re there for the event, there’s great exposure for the vendors, but also a good additional way to draw traffic to some of the stores in the mall like Boscov’s and the library too.”
Husband and wife duo Paul and Wendy Petrillo founded by Petrillo’s Fairs and Festivals. They have more than 25 years of hands-on event planning and implementation experience.
“The windows are decoratively covered with a list of all the activities and events almost like you’re walking into a normal fair,” explained Paul Petrillo. “About 30 or so vendors are set up throughout the space along with kids activities and more.”
Guests can also enjoy kinetic sand, spin art, coloring, crafts, bead-making, Jenga and little rocking horses accompanied with cowboy hats and bandanas.
“There are always three or four free activities for the kids to do so that when the parents are shopping and the kids get bored they can stop for a minute and the kids can go play and let out a burst of energy,” Paul Petrillo said.
Most of the business vendors are small businesses and/or handmade products from candles to woodwork to resin.
“We include all kinds of different products to make sure there are not an overwhelming amount of one particular product,” said Paul Petrillo. “And we’re always looking for new people to be a part of it so we can grow and add even more experiences.”
Petrillo’s is not licensed to sell food, but does include take-home items like baked goods, honey, maple syrup and candy.
Paul and Wendy Petrillo started Petrillo’s Fairs and Festivals in the fall of 2020.
“I’ve been a part of the South Windsor Jaycees (charity) since the mid-90s and I started running different events in South Windsor for many years. So I did that for about 20 years and people said I should consider doing my own events,” said Paul Petrillo. “Well, right at the start of COVID my wife, who had also been in the Jaycees, had gotten laid off; she worked at the Subway Headquarters for close to 30 years, and didn’t really know what she wanted to do.”
The duo started doing events around the state including places like Stonington, Enfield, and Colchester. Each year the events grew. There are 14 part-time employees taking turns working the different events.
“Last year we started doing much larger events, which included the Meriden Food Truck Festival,” said Paul Petrillo. “This year when we spoke with the Meriden Mall about the food truck festival they knew I was doing events all year long and they asked if I was interested in a storefront to do events.”
Paul Petrillo expressed that he was hesitant at first due to the expense, but because they were only going to be there for a limited time the facility was willing to work with them and create a unique arrangement as long as the business could bring some unique events there on a regular basis.
“It’s nice that the mall management and ownership is thinking outside the box to bring different things into there,” Ford said.
Petrillo’s signed the lease for the 12,000-square-foot space toward the end of January.
“No major renovations were needed,” said Paul Petrillo. “The former Ulta Beauty store had been empty for three or four years so we had to do some light clean up, we brought in some supplies, new tables and chairs and a whole set of decorations.”
After just about a month all were welcomed to the ribbon-cutting and grand opening back on Feb. 25 featuring their Easter Extravaganza.
“There was a great crowd in the lobby already waiting to come in and enjoy the festivities and meet the Easter Bunny. It just gave an official kind of feeling that we were actually doing this now,” Paul Petrillo said.
Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati, Economic Development Director Joseph Feest, Rep. Michael Quinn, Rep. Hilda Santiago and others joined Petrillo’s to celebrate the big day.
“One of the upsides when you look at this is it gives entrepreneurs that have a full-time job that are doing this type of operation on the weekends a chance to have a spot that isn’t impacted by weather or requires them to give a permanent commitment,” said Feest.
Feest also shared that working with Paul and Wendy went very easily.
“I have a great working relationship with (mall general manager) Chris Powers and we had talked about this before it was coming out,” he said. “And Paul and his wife (Wendy) did a great job with everything and the grand opening was well attended.
Paul Petrillo is from Bridgeport. He was working in South Windsor when he met Wendy, who was working in Milford. Once they became engaged, neither wanted to leave their jobs so they decided to move to the middle of the state and landed in Middletown. With a background in accounting, Paul focuses on the numbers for their business while with a marketing and English background Wendy focuses on things like flyers and press releases.
Petrillo’s Fairs and Festivals, 470 Lewis Ave., is open when they have an event on Saturdays from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. & Sundays noon-6 p.m. It is not open during the week.
They can be reached by phone at (860) 573-6780 or their website at www.petrillosevents.com or Facebook (for attendees) https://www.facebook.com/PetrillosEvents or Facebook Group (for businesses interested in participating) https://www.facebook.com/groups/319763682692995.