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Carlson’s Landing is open, offering a new American menu and sweeping wiews of the Connecticut River. (Photo by Karena Garrity/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Cait Shea Designs and Sprouted Coffee Bar has moved from the corner of Main and Water streets in Chester to Main and Ivory streets in Ivoryton. (Photo by Karena Garrity/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The dormant Benny’s Market storefront in Centerbrook has been brought back to life as Swanky’s Cookout Supply. (Photo by Karena Garrity/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Four new businesses are front and center in Essex, Centerbrook, and Ivoryton. Two restaurants, a BBQ business, and a clothes designer/coffee shop have joined the community.
Carlson’s Landing Restaurant, overlooking the Connecticut River at the Essex Boat Works and Marina, 63 Main Street, broke ground for the new construction project over a year ago. The new American cuisine eatery officially opened its doors in early October and has been well received by the community.
Spearheaded by restaurateur Robert Rabine, the former owner of Café Routier in Westbrook, Carlson’s Landing has a New England waterfront look with interior artwork by local artist Melissa Barbieri. The dining room seats 30 and bar area another 20. In addition, the outdoor Brazilian mahogany deck provides outdoor dining, in season.
Rabine, who was hired as a consultant for the new restaurant project, explained that the current menu is an all-day lunch and bar menu featuring lobster rolls, great burgers, calamari, octopus, tuna tartare, and salads, to name a few.
“We started a simply cooked surf and turf menu recently, with Alaskan salmon, giant head-on prawns or scallops, rack of lamb, filet mignon, and grilled quail, and we will be working in an upscale dinner menu in a couple weeks, as well as introducing Sunday brunch on the water soon,” said Rabine.
Down the road a bit, in the former Benny’s Market space, is Swanky’s Cookout Supply owned by John and Jennifer Shimanski, who recently moved to town.
“This business was something my husband and I had been talking about doing for a long time and this place checked all the right boxes,” said Jennifer Shimanski. “Its close to home, there is nothing like it in the area and we love being so close to the Essex Steam Train.”
The store, located at 5 Main Street in Centerbrook, sells cookout supplies and accessories such as pellet, charcoal and electric grills, as well as smokers, high-end fire pits, smoking chips, grilling planks, tailgating supplies, and New England made outdoor furniture such as picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, and more.
“Our goal is to be able to supply everything you need to have the best backyard cook out ever,” said Shimanski.
The soft opening of the store is slated for sometime in the next few weeks. Swanky’s plans to be open year-round and will have specialty items available for the holidays. The hope is to begin to have food, such as Dave Costa’s prime rib sandwich, sometime in the spring, along with an array of other barbecued items.
In the heart of Centerbrook, Black Jax Saloon is slated to open in December. Located at 78 Main Street (formerly Wright’s Steakhouse) the new spot with don a meat lover’s delight menu, including barbecue brisket, 40-ounce porter house steaks for two, tomahawk rib chops for two, prime rib and pork loin cut table side, and more.
“I think its going to be exciting,” said owner Jack Flaws, a career restaurateur who also owns Jack Rabbit’s Burgers, Wings and Things and The Rabbit Hole Tavern in Old Saybrook.
“I want this restaurant to be simple and casual, but also serve great food,” said Flaws, who has gutted the former kitchen of the building and reconfigured things to fit a smoker, which will be the centerpiece for much of the menu choices, such as slow smoked wings.
Each table, Flaws explained, will be adorned with four different kinds of barbecue sauce, including Carolina, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Memphis hot sauce.
“I had a dream five years ago; I woke up at 4 a.m., wrote the menu in 20 minutes, and I have been looking for a spot to pull it off every since. This place is that spot and I think something like this is needed in the area,” said Flaws.
In the center of Ivortyon, Cait Shea Designs has opened its doors at 104 Main Street. Formerly of Chester, the new store is a combination of Cait Shea Designs and Sprouted Coffee Bar, complete with a sitting area for coffee shop patrons and a full design studio in the back.
Cait Shea Designs showcases the sustainable slow-fashion line by Rhode Island School of Design alumna Cait Shea Clark who has a mission to challenge fashion industry norms of mass-production and ever-changing styles. Shea is returning to the days of cottage industry manufacturing of small collections by creating well-designed pieces meant to last a lifetime.
“This is why all of our designs are lovingly handmade in our Ivoryton studio using only 100-percent natural fibers and dead-stock fabric,” said Shea Clark.
Each item is designed, cut, sewn, and finished by Shea Clark and her studio assistant to maintain high quality standards. Inspired by nature and classic tailoring, Shea Clark explained that her designs are meant to be comfortable.
The shop also offers Cohen bagels, pastries from Wave Hill Bread and a large selection of Harney and Sons Tea.
A native of Ivoryton, Shea Clark said she’s happy to be back in her hometown and said that the locals have been incredibly supportive.
“They say they are thankful to have a coffee shop and a fun place to hang,” said Shea Clark.