SOUTHINGTON — The latest business to open in Factory Square, Paul Gregory’s Bistro Cafe, occupies the former Coil Pro building facing lower Center Street, continuing owner Florian Properties’ vision for the historic industrial complex.
Positioned between the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and the restaurants downtown, Factory Square is becoming a conduit for pedestrian traffic through entertainment and shops that complement the local culinary scene, owner Mat Florian Jr. said.
Since Florian Properties purchased the site under the leadership of his father, the late Mathew Florian Sr., bringing in experience type attractions where groups could meet before or after going out for a meal has been central to that plan.
"We're hoping to see that building bring a couple more experience usages,” Florian Jr. said of the former Coil Pro building, which is now called the Annex Building. “As we've been hearing the buzz around town, Factory Square is an experience building where people are coming from town or out-of-town to go to not just one business, but to experience a few.”
The larger of the two buildings, which overlooks the walking trail, now has around 70 percent of its 80,000 square feet of retail and office space rented out by businesses such as Perkatory Coffee Roasters, Montana Nights Axe Throwing and GameCraft Arcade, while the Annex Building has around 20,000 square feet, 6,000 of which is occupied by Paul Gregory’s.
Paul Gregory’s moved into Factory Square last week, doubling its seating capacity and expanding its kitchen to support a growing catering business. Co-owner Ashley Malloy said they’ve already seen an uptick in business for their lunch rushes and they’re excited to unveil their new dinner specials this weekend.
“So far it's been good. We've been getting great feedback as of now, everyone’s been telling us what an upgrade it is,” she said.Tenant relationships
The restaurant already has close ties with some of its fellow tenants at Factory Square. It provides food for Witchdoctor Brewing Company and GameCraft to allow them to serve fresh meals at their bars.
“It helps even just being 100 yards closer to them. It's awesome being around them, because it’s never a competition — it’s always how can we help each other,” Malloy said.
While fostering a cluster of businesses that could build off each other was always part of his vision for Factory Square, Florian said that’s happened largely on its own. Even when those businesses had a similar use that might make one worry about them competing for the same clientele, he said they’ve instead built off one another’s success.
“We wanted to have a symbiotic relationship between the tenants and we kept our eye on that, but we can't take full credit for that. We seem to have a natural progression with the tenants, in fact I believe that certain tenants were our primary drive in marketing the other spaces," he said. “ … It's hard to snap your fingers and do it all at once, because you might miss that natural flow of usage or tenancy.”Factory aesthetic
Sitting in the common area outside Perkatory, Florian said he’d like to see more opportunities for small businesses to experiment in the space. He’s hoping to bring retail kiosks to the common area and the paved stretch between the two buildings, where he’d like to set up overhead lighting, tables and exterior decorations in the future
“You can imagine like the Apple Harvest (Festival), when Covid dissipates, people might want to use between the interior of this lobby or the exterior for kiosk usage," he said. " … That is part of the vision of this place...to bring this community feel into a place of small business.”
The factory aesthetic has also proved to be popular for offices, which now favor open floor plans allowing employees to see each other and collaborate. Rather than building out vacant spaces to be ready for a company to move in as-is, Florian Properties has been keeping them bare-bones to allow prospective tenants to customize their offices how they’d see fit.
"There's a lot of architectural opportunities for businesses coming in with a factory building. The factory itself lends an aesthetic, so it's easy to put architecturals on top of that and be unique, have a good image, have a good facade, have a good interior fit-up," Florian said.
When Brightspot Creative LLC moved to Factory Square four years ago, founder Tambra Bonatti said they were looking for an office space that was “a bit more industrialized, creative, that we could kind of make our own.”
Being located next to the walking trail and in the same building as so many small businesses also allows the company’s employees to get up and stretch their legs on their breaks. It also makes for a more welcoming experience for their clients when they come into a building that has vibrant storefronts and families walking between them.
“The more positive energy, the more people there — you’re not just walking into a stagnant building,” Bonatti said. “ … As it’s growing, it’s definitely bringing more and more people in.”History
The factory complex was built in the 1880s and sits on 3.25 acres. It was once home to Southington Cutlery Co., incorporated in 1867. The company made an array of products, from teapots, razors and shaving mugs to flatware, as well as pocket knives still bought and sold by collectors today.
The cutlery line of products was discontinued in 1901 and the name changed to Southington Hardware Co. "to keep pace with the growing demand for hardware items," according to a 1965 article in the Meriden Journal, a predecessor to the Record-Journal.
"Items such as garden tools, can openers, ice picks, Masons' trowels and carpenters' squares, along with wood screws comprised the main line of products," according to the article.
In the 1940s, the company continued as the Southington Hardware Manufacturing Corp., with production focused on machine and wood screws.
Manufacturing at the site continued into the 1960s under succeeding corporate ownership.