WALLINGFORD — John Massella was not in the market for a full-service restaurant when he went in search of a new home to open the family’s third Bagelicious location.
But after meeting owner Joseph Gouveia and touring the former Wells Fargo bank on North Main Street, he discovered a new opportunity.
Massella saw that the drive-thru in the rear of the former mansion turned bank would not suit the needs of his eatery. However, he learned The Library Wine Bar & Bistro next door, also owned by Gouveia, was for sale.
“My family fell in love with the building,” Massella said. “It’s beautiful.”
After seven years in the food industry, Massella bought The Library Wine Bar & Bistro. He intends to keep the operation the same, retain head chef Jonathan Harris and other employees, and honor existing gift cards and future bookings.
“Why would we change something that’s so successful?” Massella said. “It’s very professional, very good.”
Massella, his wife Donna and their two children operate Bagelicious in Cheshire and North Haven. They had hoped to open a third in Wallingford when The Library opportunity presented itself.
Neither party would divulge a sales price, but Gouveia maintains ownership of the 60 N. Main St. building. After renovating the former Wallingford Public Library into a restaurant and wine bar in 2015, Gouveia and his family want to spend more time with each other and their other business interests, such as Gouveia Vineyards on Whirlwind Hill Road and at the former Wells Fargo bank building, which Gouveia purchased for $1.2 million about six months ago.
“We want to welcome the Massella Family of North Haven, as the new owners of The Library,” the Gouveia Family posted on the The Library’s Facebook page. “Their family is very excited to be a part of downtown Wallingford and meet the community we speak so highly about. We can proudly say that The Library is running the best it has ever run and we are proud of the team that have stood by us as we navigated our way through the pandemic. We know there is a great future ahead and we wish the Massella family and The Library team nothing but success, health and happiness.”
Gouveia has big plans for the Wells Fargo bank building just north of The Library.
The property is the original site of Moses Y. Beach's summer home, which was built in 1850 and stood for more than a century. An inventor and newspaper publisher, the Wallingford native founded the Associated Press, an international wire service.
The mansion was converted in 1920 into St. George's Inn, operated by Choate Rosemary Hall for parents and visitors.
In 1958, the New Haven Trust Co. demolished the structure and used the foundation to build a new bank building, designed to mimic the original structure. It was completed in 1960. The ornate cast iron gate in front is original to the Beach mansion.
Gouveia has four apartments on the upper floors and plans retail uses on the first floor. He’s currently in talks with a gift boutique owner from Cheshire to occupy one of the spaces and possibly a breakfast and lunch spot in another space. The lower level that opens up to the rear parking lot is eyed for another possible restaurant.
“Something simpler,” Gouveia said.
The new commercial uses in the historic buildings extend the uptown center beyond Simpson Court. Town Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan praised Gouveia for “bringing vision, energy and capital” to his successful businesses in town.
“I think it’s just good community economic development,” Ryan said about the sale. “One conversation leads to another. John Massella is solid guy in the food service business. He has an established track record and under Joe’s tutelage, I think he’ll do very well.”
Reporter Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.