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.