Gelateria Rises From Galleria’s Ashes

Melissa Bailey PhotoNordstrom’s never made it. A decade later, a two-story nightclub and gelato factory are bringing jobs and bustle to Long Wharf’s food terminal instead.

Giuliana Maravalle (pictured with scissors) has moved two businesses, Gelato Giuliana and a double-decker bar that includes Keys to the City, into 240 Sargent Dr.. City officials held a ribbon cutting Wednesday to mark the turnaround of a building at Long Wharf’s food terminal that had been vacant for several years. (Pictured with Maravalle, from left, are Damian Cashman, co-owner of the bar, Economic Development Administrator Kelly Murphy, and Mayor John DeStefano.)

Keys to the City, a dueling piano bar that relocated from downtown, opened May 20 at its new space in an abandoned warehouse. Upstairs, the bar’s four owners created a second lounge and live music space. It’s called Sargent Peppers, in honor of the street, the eponymous manufacturing company, as well as the legendary Beatles album.

Maravalle relocated her gelato factory from Wallingford to the back of the Long Wharf warehouse. Her 20-person workforce, including Laura Ledesma (pictured), have been churning out 2,000 pounds of Italian ice cream every day, and delivering them to 500 locations, including Whole Foods and Stew Leonards supermarkets, she said.

Click here for a story on her decision to move to Long Wharf.

Before cutting the ceremonial ribbon, Mayor John DeStefano reflected on the path the food terminal has taken.

“Remember the mall?” he asked with a grin.

DeStefano was referring to his plan to open a suburban-style mega-mall called the Galleria at Long Wharf in 2001. The $500 million mall was supposed to have 150 stores, including the upscale department store, Nordstrom. Opponents organized to kill the plan, which they characterized as a corporate welfare-bloated traffic and environmental nightmare that would kill downtown shops.

At the time, DeStefano recalled, there were “doubts about the future of Long Wharf.”  Would the historic use—small-scale food production, right near a highway for easy transportation—become out of date?

Wednesday, DeStefano said the answer is no.

“This is going to remain a food terminal,” he said. He spoke on the new front patio for Keys to the City. The patio opens to a terminal that includes meat-packing businesses and restaurants.

It joins Ikea down the block, which came to New Haven (without tax breaks) in the wake of the Galleria’s collapse

The building the club and gelateria moved into was vacant for several years, according to city officials. It briefly served as the campaign headquarters for Jim Newton, who unsuccessfully challenged Mayor DeStefano in 2007.

The gelato factory will employ 20 people; the clubs will employ 60. The gelato factory won’t offer gelato on-site: click here for a list of locations where you can buy it.

On Wednesday, Maravalle made an exception. She rolled out a cart of single-portion gelato cups for the group of visitors, which included seven city officials.

The rehab was made possible in part by a $30,000 city grant for the facade.

On the first floor, two dueling pianos sat by a newly installed bar, and two TVs showing the World Cup. As of now, the bar is open only Thursday to Saturday, starting at 5 p.m., according to Damian Cashman. He and Maravalle are two of four owners of the joint nightclubs. Most of their business comes from bachelorette parties, he said: Ladies outnumber men by a ratio of 5 to 1.

Upstairs, smokers can take refuge on an open-air balcony. The building, tucked away between train tracks, IKEA and the Long Wharf Theatre, is off the beaten path: To get there at night, one has to weave through the dark meatpacking buildings.

The out-of-the-way location has its benefits, however: With few neighbors in sight, “you can turn up the music a bit,” Cashman said. (Noise from the club had caused complaints downtown.) And there’s tons of free parking—50 spots—which is unheard of for any downtown bar.

When renovating the building, Cashman said, he used all recycled materials: The wood on the balcony was rescued from a barn in Oxford. In the middle of the dance floor, there’s a tree. Both clubs have full restaurants and bars.

In homage to Sgt. Pepper, Cashman (pictured) took a Sawzall to a VW bus, repainted it, and turned it into a DJ stand for dance parties.

Cashman called the design “shabby-chic.”

“The last thing we wanted to do was hide the fact that this was an abandoned warehouse,” he said.

This Friday, Cashman and co. are hosting a fundraiser to rescue the city’s July 4 fireworks show. The money will go toward the city’s fireworks show, which was downsized and moved to East Rock Park amid a budget crisis. A $25 entrance fee buys a bite to eat, open bar from 5 to 9 p.m., and a chance to see a dark corner of the food terminal come to life.

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posted by: anon on June 17, 2010  9:45am

Yay! Unfortunately, the potential of this area was killed when Conn DOT ran amok and was allowed to build a 10 story high off ramp adjacent to the area.

It could have been hundreds of acres of desirable sites for retail, housing and jobs- now it will be known as DUCO- down under the conndot overpass.

posted by: Pedro on June 17, 2010  11:30am

I think we’re going to keep going back and forth on this forever, anon, but the 10 story overpass is not the end of the world. The “docks” down between the tracks and the highway still have an immense amount of potential. If anything, with the flyover the higway was moved a few hundred feet AWAY from this area, since now all ramp activity is to the east of the highway.
I’m not a big fan of the flyover, and I think it and the bridge will be the last “great” highway projects of the next hundred years, but to say that the ramp ruined this area is pretty strong hyperbole.

The oak street connector ruined (nay, devestated) an entire neighborhood, as did many entrances and exits along 95 and 91, and the highways themselves. This didn’t ruin long wharf.

posted by: Observer on June 17, 2010  12:24pm

kelly Murphy is still development administrator?

posted by: Jerky Guy on June 17, 2010  1:33pm

Terrific.  We get a greasy meat market catering to crazed girls and one gelato shop, instead of a brand new first rate mall.  So we end up having to travel over 40 minutes to Meriden, Trumbull, or West Hartford to spend our money outside the city. (Oh, if you think the Conn Post is a real mall then all I can say is to get out more).

So yea, Mr Destefano, I DO REMEMBER THE MALL. I think about it every time I drive to those other malls.

By the way, didn’t the old place used to host midget wrestling during the week nights?  Funny how that one cultured contribution to this city was left out of the artcle.

posted by: nfjanette on June 17, 2010  1:35pm

The oak street connector ruined (nay, devestated) an entire neighborhood, as did many entrances and exits along 95 and 91, and the highways themselves. This didn’t ruin long wharf.

It’s fair to note the connector highway from I-95/I-91 cut off downtown from the waterfront.  However, the main thing devastated by the Oak Street connector project were the slums in that area.  What had once been a vibrant area for ethnic groups, notably Jewish, had long since decayed with the arrival of success which lead to the departure to the greener pastures out west (Westville, Woodbridge, and Orange).

posted by: anon on June 17, 2010  2:03pm

Pedro, hopefully you’re right, especially about the areas bordering closer to the train tracks.  However, we need to consider that the land value destroyed by the project includes not just the space itself (well over 40 acres), but also the hundreds of acres of adjacent land.

This land could have been real estate that provides jobs and taxes to the city, now it will be next to useless for anything other than parking lots.

Did ConnDOT look at air pollution, noise and visual obstruction maps of the area before it decided to build this?  No. They do these in many other states and countries, and unfortunately our city now has to suffer because of ConnDOT’s lack of foresight and impact analysis.

posted by: Jerky Guy on June 17, 2010  2:50pm

Correct me if I’m wrong but the new 10 story overpass is no where near the Terminal 110 building (next to Hummels bldg).  I drive through it every day.  So I don’t know what you guys are talking about.

I’m actually quite surprised by how little land the ConnDOT has taken over for the new bridge project.  In order to deal with existing traffic, they needed to expand the footprint.  It’s the most practical and cost-effective thing to do, rather than building expensive temporary ramps and roadways and then later tearing them down.  And the ramp needs to be over there.  I can’t tell you how many out-of-state drivers get confused on long warf, expecting the exit to be a right-hand exit (instead of the current left hand exit).  They then slow down traffic while crossing all traffic lanes.

posted by: Sabrina on June 17, 2010  3:48pm

I love this space! I went yesterday to purchase tickets for the fireworks fundraiser being held on Friday and was wowed with the interesting multi-level interior. I wish them all the very best in their endeavors. Creative & exciting to see.

posted by: Gener on June 17, 2010  4:25pm

Have they cleaned up the guard rail area between the terminal parking lot and hummels? When I was there a few months ago to pick up some dogs, I couldn’t get from one spot to the other easily. I wound up driving around the back of one of the buildings, across old train tracks to get to the front of the building… it was shady.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 17, 2010  5:43pm

nfjanette,
Oak Street turned into a slum because by the 1960s, it had been decaying steadily for 4 decades. It was once a vibrant, diverse and bustling neighborhood full of people of all incomes. Once the Great Depression began, none of the residents had money or time to fix up their properties so houses went without paint, walls went without new wall paper, developers bought up and subdivided already small apartments and closed off windows, and general maintained wasn’t done. This neighborhood (along with most others in the country) continued to get worse as the second World War presented another period of time where maintenance couldn’t be done due to everyone working to hard to produce goods and weapons for the war. Our industrial city was pushed to the max and by the time the war had ended, it was a wreck. The factories basically shut down, the railroad track’s usage plummeted as massive quantities of war-material were no longer being transported on them and the city’s neighborhoods were literally rotting.
The obvious solution was to provide massive federal funding for deployment at a local level to craftsmen, construction workers, rail road workers, etc so that they could rebuilt our cities and towns. Unfortunately, what happened was that federal money was used ONLY to build new housing on the outskirts of cities. After a couple decades of this, the cities finally got federal funding themselves (urban renewal) but by this time, modernist planning practices had taken over and more bad was done than good.
Oak Street was a slum because most places were a slum. It remained a slum after WW2 because of idiotic federal policies and a misguided use of resources.

Jerky Guy,
I’m not so sure I understand how building anything that doesn’t generate wealth is ever cost-effective. Highway infrastructure building represents an investment in future costs. All we’ve managed to do with the rebuilding of the highway bridge and this exit ramp is ensure that future generations with have to break their backs to pay for it and all its associated costs like pristine maintenance, devaluing of surrounding land, health effects of pollution, etc.

posted by: Jerky Guy on June 18, 2010  10:46am

Jonathan, that’s not “all” we’ve managed to do.  We’ve managed to make my commute more comfortable and tolerable as I go to work in New Haven and later return to the suburbs.  For that I thank you.  I could never live in New Haven, so now I can continue to work in the city by day and sleep in the nice secure safety of the suburbs at night, where my biggest problem is yelling at kids to “Keep off my lawn.”

posted by: Townie on June 18, 2010  12:04pm

John Hopkins:
Can’t an argument be made that costs associated with highway upgrades and/or repair help generate income and generate wealth? If the highways are in ill repair less businesses are likely to choose New Haven County or anywhere to operate from , which means less income via property taxes, income taxes from potential employees, etc. In fact that is one of the key reasons why business pass over Connecticut when choosing a location, our horrible highway system which creates massive traffic problems which translate into efficiency problems for businesses.

A bit more on topic, it is nice to see that small businesses can still thrive in the area, but as always I am not thrilled with the grant given by the city nor am I thrilled that another food production company couldn’t fill the space, rather than a bar/lounge.

posted by: sam on June 19, 2010  12:52am

there is a 3 or 4 car accident in that area 1am june 19

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 19, 2010  1:45pm

As soon as King John tax increase kick in,She will be back in Wallingford.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 21, 2010  12:12pm

Townie,
Where land is cheap, highways are great for growth and short-term wealth generation. In the 60s, when the federal government made urban land very cheap and easily developed (urban renewal), growth occurred, but at the cost of our long-term viability. Highways decentralize wealth by spreading it across vast amounts of land. In cities, better highways just mean more commuters, more commuters means more parking infrastructure and wider city roads, that means less buildable land, which means higher city taxes, which means less desirable city living, which means we have to invest in better highways to attract more development….wait a second, does that make any sense?
Massive highway improvements just don’t pay for themselves, growth is going to have to occur to justify the expenditure. 9 times out of 10 that growth is going to occur where land is cheap thanks to backwards tax incentives, cheap mortgages, and fundamentally flawed zoning and building codes. Cheap land is only made viable for occupancy and development by highways, otherwise it’d remain a forest or farmland. This only contributes to more commuting and people taking up capacity on highways, which accelerates decay.
At some point we have to stop and realize that cities only work around fixed-path transportation like rail. Maritime trade and harbors can only support small walkable communities along the water, and highways spread urban wealth around to municipalities that don’t contribute to the city’s tax base and have residents that don’t contribute to the city’s civic life. Rail was what made our port towns grow into urban centers, highways have effectively destroyed them.

posted by: Alphonse Credenza on June 21, 2010  12:41pm

Yes, indeed, Oak Street area was miserable.  If you don’t believe it, just look at pictures of the neighborhoods in that area at the Historical Society.  Sylvan Avenue, etc. were livable in the 1940s, but everyone who could leave, wanted to leave, and did.  Now look at it.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 21, 2010  4:02pm

Alphonse,
That just simply isn’t true. Following the second World War the federal government did not provide tax breaks, cheap mortgages, low interest loans or any other incentives to city dwellers. The federal government did, however, provide all those things and much more for new, suburban housing. Many, if not most, residents would have stayed in New Haven if they had gotten federal relief to pay for repairs and upgrades to their homes and neighborhoods, which had gone without maintenance since the great depression. A slum is a temporary condition, with investment it can turn into thriving building stock. Upper State Street was essentially a slum in the 70s and 80s, but thanks to investment it has become a mostly thriving place. Grand Avenue was pretty much a slum in the 90s, but thanks to private, individual investments from a new immigrant community, it has become a great place, which will spread to surrounding streets.
Canada, for example, provided incentives for city dwellers to fix up their housing after World War 2 and invested minimally in new suburban housing, until about the 1980s when there was a huge suburban housing boom. In stead of destroying city neighborhoods by letting them rot and only house very poor, unemployed people, they restored them before the decayed too much. The effect was that Canada has the safest cities in the world.
We need to address these issues as soon as we can by nationally abandoning our current Euclidean zoning and function-based codes and replace them with Transect zoning with form-based codes. We need to rebuild our passenger and cargo rail networks. We need to provide massive incentives for urban development and stop providing federal and state incentives for suburban development. Land is affordable in suburbs because of massive federal highway projects, without those enormous subsidized highways, suburbs wouldn’t exist. Suburbia is the largest public housing project in the world and the entitlements are bankrupting us.