The much-anticipated Parkville Market officially opened May 20—with a different outcome then Director of Operations Chelsea Mouta originally anticipated. Safety measures are in place to adhere to state and CDC guidelines in terms of social distancing and sanitation.

MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price toured the grounds in May 2019 (read Parkville Market Creates Economic Development in Hartford) and was looking forward to the opening. She visited the Market and spoke with Chelsea about the opening process.

NAN PRICE: Congratulations on the opening! I know it’s not how you expected.

CHELSEA MOUTA: Thanks! Parkville Market was envisioned to be a space where lots and lots of people gather with communal dining and events. So, today looks different than we thought our first week would look three months ago. Nonetheless, we have businesses here cooking and serving customers and we’re really lucky that our opening timed with outdoor dining. We’re thrilled we’ve been able to launch. I want to note that the city has been a great partner and amazing in helping us push through on this project.

NAN: When we last spoke, the plan was to open in early fall 2019. You noted then, it’s hard to plan with this type of construction project.

CHELSEA: Right. It’s a 100-year-old building on a site that hadn’t been built on in about 75 years. So, when we dug down deep, literally, there were issues with the soil, which is what set us back a little bit. We shifted our plan to open in early spring 2020.

When I stop and think about it, I’m proud that we were planning on opening just before COVID-19 and we still made it happen—even if it looks a little different. We had the space ready to go and we weren’t going to let this stop us. Every business, large or small, is finding a way to forge ahead and, for us, not opening was not an option.

NAN: The pandemic obviously has a huge impact on so many businesses, especially the food industry. How does the Market help create opportunity for some?

CHELSEA: A couple of our vendors couldn’t make it work with managing their first business and opening this spot right away. But they’re joining us in the coming weeks and I’m getting encouraging emails from people pushing through and telling us they’re finally above water and they’re looking forward to being a part of the Market.

I’ve been fielding applications for the past year and a half. We have had more than 15 applications in the last few weeks, which is exciting. These are serious folks who visit the space, see the kitchen they’re getting, and are interested in opening a stall.

We’ve also had discussions with food truck owners who rely on seasonal catering. Most of their event plans for the foreseeable future are cancelled and they’re thinking opening a stall here could help keep their business afloat. We’re grateful that the business model we had envisioned for this space is actually needed in a time like this, when so much of the restaurant industry is struggling.

NAN: What’s next?

CHELSEA: We’re excited to bring on additional vendors in the next couple of weeks, which would get us to 10. We’re getting interest for the rotating stalls, too, which is also exciting. We hope in the next month or so to at least double the number of restaurants here.

We’re also gearing up to open indoors, however the state allows for that and planning with some private dining rooms and more outdoor dining. Then, the next step is getting our bar going so people can enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine with their meals. Reservations are in the works as well.

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