An eclectic collection of shops offering off-street parking are now open in the Sunlight Building at 48 Franklin St. in downtown Norwich, next to Foundry 66.
T-Shirt World, “home of the $5 tee” (unisex size), opened in a retail space at the back of the building to accommodate the community and the economy in 2020, owner Ashon Avent said during a telephone interview. Female and male T-shirts run $5 and up. (Hours of operation: Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Since the pandemic began, T-Shirt World has been making novelty T-shirts for many different people, organizations and fundraisers “and people love it,” said Avent, who started his business at Foundry 66 in 2018.
Even though it’s not advertised on his storefront, he also has an online company called Main Avent Sports (mainaventgroup.com), which creates custom-branded apparel for a variety of different people, schools, teams and nonprofits with personalized logos using embroidery, screen printing, silkscreen and different colors.
Additionally, his street wear reflects national trends that include popular, geek and urban cultures.
“We use the different genres to help influence a lot of the designs and the creations,” Avent said.
The Hartford native added they have various sizing charts and patterns to reflect customers’ needs of athletic, baggy or sporty.
Describing his businesses as “small but mighty,” he said, “We have flexibility to work with the smallest clients up to the biggest corporations.”
Rebel Wear Apparel owner Richard Thompson IV shares space with Avent, whom he considers a mentor. Thompson also creates custom clothing for individuals and companies – everything including masks, hats, T-shirts, hoodies, polo shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and coats.
He said during a telephone interview that he is currently working on a new brand called Young & Royal to reshape “and bring more of a positive spin to urban wear. When I started this, a lot of the brands that I was seeing were rooted in things that didn’t align with my faith, and weren’t necessarily positive. They had a lot of negative attributes that were associated with drug culture, gang life and a lot of things that just us in the black community need to start getting away from.” (Rebel Wear Apparel is also a Wish.com pickup site. Hours of operation: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Go online to rwafashion.com or call/text 203-893-9454.)
Thompson’s other company, called Thompson Transports, is a “transportation service to small businesses and large with last leg deliveries, bulk deliveries and just basically, taking that logistical part off of their hands and making it easier,” he said.
Midnight Aether prides itself on offering handmade clothing, accessories and novelty gifts by small New England businesses. “Geeks and nerds of all kinds” (including science-fiction and comic book fans who are female and female-presenting) are welcomed at Midnight Aether, said owner Heather Pigg, a graphic designer and freelance social media consultant.
Her products include drinking tumblers, devotional candles, pennants and apparel (hoodies, crew neck sweaters, T-shirts and tote bags) featuring pop culture characters – including Star Wars, Marvel, and Harry Potter, among others.
Pigg was excited to share during a January telephone interview that plans are already in the works to quadruple her current closet-sized space in the Sunlight Building by sometime in February. She will remain open during construction utilizing a different entrance. Additionally, within a few months, she is planning to provide space for people to play “Dungeons & Dragons” and video games. Pigg said this is needed, “because we don’t have a lounge-type space here downtown or at least anywhere really locally for people that isn’t attached to alcohol or anything like that.”
Midnight Aether is also a pick-up and drop-off spot for Norwich Camera, a repair shop business her husband, professional photographer Andy Pigg, is starting with some friends. (Website: midnightaether.com, hours: Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to 6 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday.)
Find high-quality, lab-tested and affordable CBD (cannabinol made from non-industrial hemp) products at Greenleaf Farms in the Sunlight Building. CBD and the other compounds produced by the hemp plant and made legal through the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, are now offered at Greenleaf Farms, owner Brian Vertefeuille said during a telephone interview. “Semi-psychoactive compounds include HHC and THCO, Delta 8, Delta 10 and THCV.”
CBD and these other compounds range from chocolate bars, gummies, juices and tinctures to lotions, salves, balms and suppositories. This expansive store offers 12 different types of tinctures with about 10 variations of each one ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 milligrams, as well as smoking accessories, candles and clothes.
“I love educating people, because every time I’ve been able to talk to somebody, I always get the same reaction: ‘Wow, I never knew that.’ And that just makes me feel great that I’m able to teach people,” Vertefeuille said.
He also owns another Greenleaf Farms store in Jewett City and has two affiliate stores in New London and Bridgeport. Vertefeuille urges individuals interested in opening up their own store to contact him, because he can help them “get a turnkey business.”
(Website: gfarmscbd.com. Hours: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday Noon to 8 p.m.)
Those in need of a break after all that shopping can stop by CREAM, a café that offers coffee, tea and indulgent treats such as scones, muffins, croissants, cookies and cinnamon rolls, along with salami, cheese and cereals. Other healthier alternatives include granola bars, bananas, apples and gluten-free oatmeal in a cup.
Customers can opt to dine inside or year-round outside in good weather. (CREAM updates its customers via Instagram: @creamcoffee_CT and Facebook. Hours: Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Business has “been pretty great,” said Jessica Persad, who co-owns the shop with her sister-in-law, Kari Herndon. Both are also nurses – Herndon as part of the Yale-New Haven Hospital network and Persad as a State of Connecticut employee, though she was called to active duty with the Connecticut Air National Guard in September 2021, because of COVID.
Owned by Tim Owens, both the remodeled Sunlight Building and Foundry 66 offer the same perks to small business owners at no extra cost: Wi-FI, heat, air-conditioning, kitchen/lounge areas, printing, parking, cleaned facilities and access to their space 24/7, as well educational and networking events, a mailbox and business address. No security or lease is required once owners pass a credit check.
Mary Riley of Norwich Community Development Corporation, who manages the buildings for Owens, said they try to provide entrepreneurs with a ready, low-obstacle space, “and then a sense of community here” through membership.
“I think the community is very welcoming. I think they were looking forward to a spot where we could kind of come together where they can meet people,” CREAM Co-Owner Jessica Persad said.
Jan Tormay, a longtime resident of Norwich, now lives in Westerly.