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That’s the Way Michelina’s Bakery Cookie Crumbles

After 10 years as Wilton’s favorite pastry and bakery haven, Michelina’s owners close the Old Ridgefield Rd. location.

Editor’s Note: This article is the latest in an ongoing series examining the difficult business climate for local Wilton businesses.

Where is Wilton going satisfy its sweet tooth, now that Michelina’s Bakery has closed its doors?

Citing factors like a tough l as well as better opportunities elsewhere to grow the bakery’s wholesale business, owner Michelle Palanzo told Patch that the choice to leave Wilton was bittersweet.

“It was a very hard decision, because I really enjoy the business here,” said Palanzo. “We were in a routine and had regulars. It’s sad to me that we won’t be here anymore. But in the same respect, in the last year-and-a-half, we’ve been stagnant and we haven’t been able to grow, we’re really working around the clock. And it’s very expensive to be in this town.”

Palanzo talked about how difficult an economic landscape it is in Wilton to run a small, independently owned business. One primary roadblock she cited is the high rent business owners have to pay for a Wilton location.

“You have to be very creative to make ends meet. I’ve made a lot of friends and contacts, a lot of great people that live in town, but the town itself isn’t a town that draws business and customers from other towns. So you really have to make your living with the people that live here. That can be done, but you can’t do it in a traditional fashion," said Palanzo.

"The landlords think this is like New Canaan or this is Darien, which business-wise, it’s not, and rents don’t reflect what we can support. I think that’s sad," she said. 

Palanzo said it’s not just the business owners who are affected, but the residents as well.

“In a way, it’s not fair to the community. This is a good community, a lot of good people live here and they want to have a nice town, a lot of nice things go on here, through the holidays and going into the fall with the activities. But at some point there’s a roadblock to what can be done.”

She added, “You spend a lot of money per square foot, how many $2 danishes or $2 cookies can I sell in a month to cover the rent and still be able to make a living myself. It limits the kind of specialty stores that can come in and make a town like Wilton have the charm, it takes that away.”

One door closes, another opens

Palanzo said that despite the tough landscape, the wholesale side of her business was growing increasingly successful. She and her partner, Nuno Cordeiro, needed to decide whether focusing on wholesale business over retail, storefront sales was the direction in which to move their business.

“Our wholesale really has taken off in the last year or two, to the point that we can’t accommodate it here anymore. We’ve outgrown this kitchen. Basically it was, ‘Do we continue working here or do we focus on the part of our business that’s growing more?’”

They found a new commercial kitchen in Danbury, familiar to both Palanzo and Cordeiro who are from the area. Palanzo said the new location suits their plans well.

“The spot we’re going to is 4,000 square feet, we’re doubling our size, we’ve tripled the size of the equipment, so we’re going to be able to output more and be able to pick up more customers. Whereas we haven’t been able to do that over the last year because we just couldn’t accommodate any growth [in the Wilton store].  We’ll be able to make a larger variety of products. A lot of the customers now want similar products to what we’re already giving them, but maybe in a different flavor but we just can’t do it because we didn’t have the facility to do it.”

Unfortunately, they won’t have a retail storefront at the new spot.

“The ultimate plan is to get the kitchen going and hopefully, eventually have a small storefront spot in Ridgefield or maybe Wilton again, where we can sell directly to customers and possibly do the birthday parties again. That has been a viable business for us and that’s one thing I’m sad to not have any more—I like doing the parties,” said Palanzo.

Wilton customers can still get their Michelina’s fix, though, so never fear. Locals can still find Michelina’s breads at the and they’ll be delivering whatever people call and order on a daily basis.

“Even when we move, our phone number will still be the same, our website is still the same, people can still special order cakes, holiday specialties and we deliver whatever they want to the Village Market at the start of the day. We’re still making ourselves available to people in Wilton. People have asked, ‘How am I going to get my holiday Stollen?' You’re still going to be able to get everything; just call us to order it.”

Even though Michelina’s is no longer in Wilton, you can still reach them at 203.834.CAKE (2253) or find them at www.michelinasbakery.com.

Rational Wilton Mom September 28, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Bill Brennan, are you listening to this? Something must be done to help businesses prosper in Wilton. It is shameful that we have lost our bookstore, music store, and now our only bakery in town. It's pathetic.
Michael Graupner September 28, 2011 at 03:51 PM
It all boils down to ever-escalating property taxes. Brennan, enabled by the bobble heads on the BOS, has presided over tax increases ever since he took office...and he thinks he deserves to be reelected? Retail business can't afford this town any more than its senior residents on fixed incomes. By the way, Bill, you spent $ 11 thousand of our money on a Senior survey and the results have been in for months. What is your plan of action? Where is the leadership?
George Young September 28, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Not to defend high taxes or high rents for retail businesses (They are never low enough.), but there is another factor -- supply and demand. If a business has a product or service that is in demand, it will prosper. If a landlord charges too much for rent, eventually the space will be empty and the landlord will collect no rent at all unless there is another business that can sell a needed product at a profit in the same space. And if a town like Wilton raises taxes to an unaffordable level, people and businesses will move elsewhere. In Wilton, residents and businesses want the best of everything -- schools, services, security, etc. Those things have to be paid for and if the price is more then residents and businesses want to pay, then the town will have to cut back on those services. There have been many small retail stores in town over the years that were nice to have here that no longer exist, stores that did not meet a real need. Individuals start these businesses without researching the market. Michelina's was a very nice store to have in town. And while it will be missed by some, the reality is similar baked goods are available right around the corner. The reason for the loss of Michelina's might not be entirely the high rent or the taxes.
William sherman September 28, 2011 at 09:58 PM
The store provided a unique quality product. It was local, and it was supported by a large number of local residents. A business plan cannot anticipate ever increasing real estate taxes on their landlords that outpace the economy. Unfortunately Wilton does not attract many people from other towns. Yes, we have some well established business’, like the market, or Scoops. The fact is that Wilton is not a destination, because it does not have a shopping friendly downtown or well established main street. It is not a Westport, New Canaan or Darien. Wilton is also not easy to get to. Rt 7, even with the local improvements, is still a mess and our major town roads have become alternatives to that, and not by people shopping in Wilton. We pay for the upkeep of town roads, more cost, more taxes. Yes, the property tax in Wilton is too high, and it is even higher on commercial buildings. Obviously that forces a landlord to charge more per sq ft. It does not surprise me that a business leaves town for those reasons. I know landlords in Wilton, and some of the surrounding towns, and from what they say Wilton puts so many zoning restrictions, reporting requirements, business permits, business equipment taxes etc than any of the other towns. Even if the town offered incentives to attract retail business, the fact still remains that outsiders will not want to take the trip. I am sorry to see Michelina’s leave. It is a gain for Danbury,
Wilton Resident September 29, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Would someone please run against Brennan and get him out of office!!! We need new blood!!
Eustace Tilley September 29, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Its not just Brennan's fault (although he IS supposed to be the 'professional manager.' ) Both Dems and Reps have a peverse propensity to spend thinking they know how to spend our money better than we do. They need to get rid of the excesses and abuses. I think they know what is wrong but simply lack the will to 'fix it' as Christie would say.
William sherman September 29, 2011 at 03:13 PM
At the end of the day the buck stops with Brennan. He could be more forceful if he wanted to and guide the others on the boards. As far as the original point of the comments is concerned, I agree with your assesment of excess. A business in this enviroment cannot raise prices as easly as Wilton seems to raise taxes. I read in the Bulliten that the BOF is starting into the next budget with a guideline of a 1.75% increase!! Why? The nations goal has been to cut spending. understand we now have a surplus in our current budget. Why? If you decide to leave town now, assuming you can sell your house, you have overpaid your taxes and there was no dividend. Perhaps we can get a refund. Oh, I forgot, it probably would be subject to a CT income tax thanks to Malloy.
Eustace Tilley September 30, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Willliam, et al. A guideline of 1.75% is simply a statement by elected officials that they lack the imagination and will to professionally manage government spending. It is an admission of complete failure repeated each and every year. We need to vote against them and against their inability to understand government taxes created hardships shared by all citizens.
mo October 02, 2011 at 03:34 PM
soup alley was also forced to close its doors and move out of wilton due to increases in rent. they'd been there at least 10 years--very sad. how is it that at least three nail salons are still in wilton center???

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