It turns out customers aren't the only ones caught by surprise and curious about Zeytinia Gourmet Market's abrupt closure.
"Something was up," said Wilton Tax Collector Phil Damato of the recently shuttered business. "Around the middle of August, they told us all of a sudden that they were only going to be open for two more weeks."
On hearing the news, Damato and the town set out to collect the market's outstanding taxes and were successful in doing so. The business settled a $3,100 bill, including an overdue $1,591 balance from July on Aug. 31.
Damato said businesses closing quickly and leaving unpaid debts is not a large problem in town, but acknowledged that it does happen. The town had trouble collecting from the Blue Tulip store in Wilton Center before it switched to Swoozie's, which also has now gone bankrupt.
Zeytinia's closure, however, is different since there has been no announcement of the parent company folding. Individual locations are franchised and, thus, under the direct control of local management. Still, there are signs that the franchise as a whole is not doing well- two other stores already closed earlier this year in Englewood, NJ and Westchester, NY.
Wilton's town clerk's office was unable to find any documentation for the business, something of an oddity since new businesses are supposed to register with the town when they start. Clerk Bettye Ragognetti said it could be that the establishment was registered under the owners' name, rather than a trade name, making it hard to find.
Town officials admitted there was something odd about the lack of information, however, and that there had been others at town hall recently looking for the owners' contact information, which they did not have on file. One man said he was owed money for commercial equipment inside the now-locked business.
According to the town assessor's records, Zeytinia has been in business since Oct. 1, 2004. The owners filed a building permit on Aug. 19, 2003, indicating their intent to make around $200,000 worth of renovations to the 14 Danbury Road location they were taking over.
Assessor Dave Lisowski said Zeytinia's owners had paid their commercial taxes over the years, but added that it is sometimes difficult to make sure all new businesses properly register with the town.
In fact, he said Wilton oftens finds out about new business openings through the media. He searched through a records collection full of newspaper clippings, which the office compiles to mark business openings, to ultimately find Zeytinia's original building permit.
Representatives for Zeytinia, meanwhile, have been silent. There was no communication of the market's impending closure to customers, save for large sales and dwindling inventories. An Urstadt Biddle Properties sign advertising the space was put up and taken down.
Messages to Zeytinia's corporate site have gone unreturned, as have attempts to contact Gateway Center Associates, the shopping center managers located in Boynton Beach, FL.
The market mystery remains.