Susan Schmoozes Branford’s Main Street

Bill O'Brien photo“We need to turn around the state. Everybody is hurting,” said Haresh Nariyani, owner of Darbar India restaurant on Branford’s Main Street.

Nariyani talked about the difficulties of running a small business in Connecticut when Susan Bysiewicz stopped at his restaurant during a campaign tour of Main Street Thursday afternoon.

Bysiewicz, the Democratic-endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor, faces a primary election challenge Tuesday from Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a political newcomer who campaigned in New Haven Wednesday.

Nariyani told Bysiewicz that the Branford restaurant he’s operated since 1993 is doing well. “Here, every evening is busy,” he said. But Bangalore, a second restaurant that he opened in 2011 in Fairfield, lost customers when General Electric decided to move its headquarters from Fairfield. He told Bysiewicz he may have to close the Fairfield restaurant.

Bysiewicz, an attorney, said she has worked with businesses for many years, and will use her experience if elected.

“Ned and I have a lot of work we’re going to do,” Bysiewicz said, referring to Ned Lamont, the Democratic-endorsed candidate for governor. 

Running on Experience

Diana Stricker photoBysiewicz served three terms as the state rep for Middletown, Middlefield, and Durham; she also served three terms as secretary of state. She feels her experience makes her uniquely qualified to be lieutenant governor.

“For this position, experience is the only thing that matters,” she said. “Having knowledge of the legislative process is critical.

She was accompanied on the campaign walk Thursday by State Rep. Lonnie, (D-Branford), who is retiring from office this year after serving a decade representing the 102nd District. Reed announced in April she would not seek a sixth term in office.

Also joining the candidates were Robin Comey, the Democratic candidate for the 102nd District; and Christine Cohen, the Democratic candidate for the 12th District, the state senate seat being vacated by Ted Kennedy. Neither Comey nor Cohen have a challenger in the August primary.

A Prescription for Success

Bill O'Brien photoBysiewicz stopped by the Towne Pharmacy, a family owned and operated business for 52 years.

Vince Ragonese, husband of pharmacy owner Karen Rogonese, talked about how the business has grown over the years. 

The pharmacy, which was founded in 1966 by Karen’s Ragonese’s father, William Ward, and his partner, Al Carloni, is one of the longest-running businesses on Main Street. The business doubled in size about 10 years ago.

“We definitely have expanded but we have our struggles,” Vince Ragonese told Bysiewicz.

One Open, One Closed

Bill O'Brien photoThe candidates stopped by another longtime business, P.S. Fine Stationers, owned and operated by Sal Esposito for 20 years. However, the town’s anchor store, the nearby Branford Book and Card Shoppe, closed recently after more than 40 years in business when Sal’s father, Bob Esposito, decided to retire.

“It was the go-to place for years and years,” Reed said. The family tried to sell the business, but no one was interested in buying a book and newspaper store.

Sweets on Main

Bill O'Brien photoBy contrast, Sweets on Main just opened about one year ago, owned by Donna Seward and daughter Sarah Sheiffele (pictured above).

Bysiewicz asked for their support in the primary and told them to contact her if they need anything.

Bysiewicz said one problem encountered by small businesses, especially new ones, is a $250 Business Entity Tax, which is due every two years. She said the tax is paid by businesses large and small “regardless of how much revenue they generate.”

She said she and Lamont have a proposal to eliminate the Business Entity Tax as part of a larger economic plan.

Cosy at Cosi

Bill O'Brien photoBilly DiLegge, owner of Pasta Cosi, has been in the restaurant business at various locations in Branford for more than 25 years. He’s been at the current location across from the Town Green for 11 of those years. “This is the best place,” he said as a crowd of patrons enjoyed a late lunch.

DiLegge was pleased the all-female contingent of candidates stopped by to say hello. “I’m honored,” he said. It’s great for women to be out there and doing a great job. They’re amazing!”

Additional information about Bysiewicz is available at susanforct.com, her campaign website.

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