MERIDEN — The small grocery store and deli next to the train station on Colony Street is taking advantage of the potential in the city’s transit-oriented district.
La Poblanita Grocery & Deli at 39 Colony St. recently started to build a dining area in vacant space at 41 Colony St. next door, a former coin shop.
The city planner’s office approved plans to open a wall separating the commercial spaces to make room for at least six new tables to add to the existing three tables in the small store and deli.
The owners hired Prestige Construction, owned by City Councilor Miguel Castro, as general contractor for the project.
”They have people coming in Saturday and Sunday that can’t fit in the area,” Castro said. “People wait outside and sometimes there is a line outside. Rather than lose business, they took the opportunity to expand.”
La Poblanita will rent about 900 square feet in the vacant space owned by landlord K & S Meriden LLC of New Jersey bringing the total space to greater than 1,500 square feet.
After cutting the concrete wall for an opening, the next phase is repairing and coating the walls, updating tile and electrical and building a new prep area in the rear, Castro said.
Castro and other city officials are impressed with the business’ growth.
“It’s a decent little shop with good food,” said City Planner Renata Bertotti.
Originally the shop started as a deli, added a couple of tables and applied for a kitchen, a range hood, and a handicapped-accessible bathroom, Castro said. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“People can come in, order and go into the dining area,” Castro said. “They are hiring more waitresses. There is a great demand for their food.”
The expansion is part of several investments in expansions and new eateries in the city’s TOD, despite the newest commercial construction at 24 Colony St. remaining empty.
“I am certain we will get there,” Castro said. “This is indicative that the TOD is working. Twenty-four Colony Street is a different conversation. We need to help and assist them to fill those spots and spaces. Whatever it is, maybe its marketing issues, where and how can we bring this to fruition? I’m going to continue to have this conversation.”
Castro points to The Downtown Coffee Shop, the expansion of other small stores, Banana Brazil, Bentley’s and the new Mr. Taco in the TOD as evidence growth is happening downtown.
Lisa Biesak of the Making Meriden Business Center is excited to see La Poblanita occupy some dormant storefront space.
“We’re really excited about it. They do a great job with the space,” Biesak said. “It’s becoming a little hub down there. Very good food for the price. I’m really exicted for them. It’s great to see them expand.”
Georgina Ponce, who co-owns the business with her brother, has embraced the TOD’s beautification program and actively participates in downtown events, Biesak said.
La Poblanita’s location next to the train station, and the amount of walk-in traffic helped push the family’s decision to expand, Ponce said.
“Especially because of the train,” she said.