SOUTHINGTON — Craft Kitchen, a local scratch-menu restaurant, will be moving from its 1244 Meriden Ave. location into the building once occupied by Fireside on Main at 42 W. Main St. in Plantsville center.
The business made the announcement via its Facebook on Monday and has already begun to renovate the space ahead of its projected opening in May of this year.
Fireside on Main, a woodfired pizza restaurant that previously occupied the building, closed its doors in late February after nearly a year in business citing rent and utilities costs given the current restaurant market.
Mike Truss, the owner of Craft Kitchen, is confident his business will succeed in the location and elevate the area of downtown Plantsville. Truss grew up in Plantsville, his grandfather owning a farm on Pine Street. He is a culinary arts graduate from Newbury College in Boston. He’s been running Craft Kitchen for five years and recently expanded to a second location in Plainville shortly after the pandemic.
“We've been doing our thing in Southington for five years, and we're going to bring our same from-scratch, locally sourced menu into Plantsville,” said Truss. “We're not your average restaurant. A lot of places cut corners, a lot of frozen products. We're a pretty distinct, fresh, locally sourced menu that brings its own edge to the game. We hope to create something down there… we want to bring Plantsville alive. ”
Having weathered the pandemic, Craft Kitchen has seen enthusiastic community support. The Meriden Avenue location is constantly at capacity. Truss sees the Plantsville property as a way to expand his business and provide an even better space to entertain more customers.
“We outgrew our building probably three years ago, and we've just always tried to make it work there. And we need a facility that size, and that building is beautiful inside,” Truss said. “We look forward to working with the landlord to be renovating that area of town and hopefully being a longtime tenant there, somewhere where we can call home.”
The cornerstone of Craft Kitchen is its locally sourced food, collaborating with local farmers and vendors from around the state. That, for Truss, is one of the keys to their ongoing success despite a leaner restaurant market.
Originally Dean Michanczyk, owner of the building and the adjacent Dean’s Stove and Spa, had considered Truss to take over the building with the closure of Tavern 42, but discussions never took place before Mike Mingolello took up the space for Fireside on Main. When the pizzeria closed, the pair entered discussions again and quickly closed a deal.
“Mike (Truss) and his team are going to do very well there,” Michanczyk said. “I feel like it’s really going to round things out. Lion’s Den has been doing, very, very well, I feel like it’s going to be the last peg that’s going to go into this part of downtown Plantsville and once that renaissance comes through downtown here it’s going to be the place to go to in the surrounding area. Mike is a good business owner and he’s got a good business model, we like his menu. I think everything is going to work itself out very, very well.”
The announcement comes in light of several developments in Plantsville, including the recent completion of a municipal parking lot and the renovation of the old pharmacy space at 7 W. Main St. for new apartments and a business on the lower level. Other businesses, like Lion’s Den Coffee Shop, Hop Haus, and several Chinese restaurants continue to do well.
With the addition of Craft Kitchen, Michanczyk and Truss hope to bring new crowds down to experience what the Plantsville area has to offer.
The closure of Fireside on Main, and Zingarella’s Pizzeria & Ice Cream Cafe earlier in February of this year, worried both residents and town officials about the future of the Plantsville area. Both businesses cited supply chain pressures for the restaurant industry when they closed. With the building quickly being occupied less than a month after Fireside’s closure, town officials expressed renewed confidence in the strength of the area and that Southington still remains attractive to new local businesses.
Mark Zommer, the owner of Zingarella, is in discussions with several potential tenants to open up their own restaurant in the space, though no decisions have yet been made. An announcement is expected sometime this year.
“People want to be in Southington. They want to live here, they want to work here, they want to dine here. Southington, there’s just no place like it. Even when other businesses are struggling, it seems as though Southington seems to be the shining star,” said Mike DelSanto, member of the Town Council and chair of the Economic Strike Committee. “I'm very glad that those vacancies are gonna be filled and hopefully by mid-spring and early summer we'll see the hustle and bustle we once saw in the past … Craft Kitchen has been a staple in town for the last couple of years. I think they're going to do very, very well there.”
Despite the struggles of the pandemic, Truss reiterated that he feels that Craft Kitchen’s success has been due to a commitment to fresh, local food made in the restaurant that gives customers a different dining flavor from others in the area — alongside his extensive experience in the industry.
“I've been doing this pretty much my entire career working for people, running restaurants, running kitchens — front of the house, back of the house. And the only thing that matters at the end of the day is the numbers that you do. Numbers never lie. So, you know, the support of the community is what we thrive off of,” Truss said. “You have to adapt. During Covid, we were fortunate because we adapted to what we had to make it work. We were able to open a second location at the end of Covid because of that reason. Everything's more expensive now, and that's just how it is. Everything, every single aspect of food services, everybody sees it. So if we all have that in mind, you get a quality product for what you're paying for, it keeps people coming back.”
Currently the interior of the Plantsville building is being furnished and renovated for the new space, with wood paneling covering the bar to match the aesthetic of the existing location. Truss hopes to use the expanded dining space and banquet hall to grow catering and party services, along with creating upwards of 15 new careers by coming into the larger space. Truss would be employing 70 people total, already managing 55 between his two other locations.
Though Craft Kitchen is leaving Meriden Avenue, Truss is planning to keep the location open and operate it as a brand new restaurant — keeping existing employees there and building an entirely new experience different from the Craft Kitchen.
“That's probably one of my most proud achievements is having two establishments, soon to be three, that we're able to create that many jobs for people in town,” said Truss. “We're super excited to be a part of Plantsville as well as the rest of Southington. This area is near and dear to us, like I said. I have ties here that make it a little bit more special to me.”