THOMASTON – Tramonti Ristorante owner Erald Menalla on Wednesday told U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., customer traffic is picking up again.
“I think things are getting back,” Menalla said, noting several customers of his Italian eatery at 131 Main St. told him they were patronizing the interior of a restaurant for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago. “I think things are going the right path.”
Led by First Selectman Edmond V. Mone, Murphy took a tour of downtown to see how some of the businesses are doing one year later. He told Menalla he was in Berlin the day before and several business owners told him they were having their “best March in a long time.”
David Barbaret, owner of Barbaret Jewelers, said business “for some reason” was better in 2020 for him than in 2019, even though he had to shut down for three months. Perhaps it was due to some of his competition closing or people not wanting to travel out of town, he said.
“I think people are doing better than you’d think,” Murphy said.
Still, Barbaret said the downtown needs more retail to attract more customers and help businesses that are here.
“I’d love to see them full,” he said of the vacant storefronts. “We need something to draw people in.”
Economic Development Commission Chairman Jeffrey Dunn, also a selectman, was on the tour and said even with financial incentives, it’s still a difficult environment in which to launch a business.
“It’s tough starting out as a new business, even in normal times,” Dunn said. “Now it’s even harder.”
Murphy said he was happy to hear businesses are taking advantage of federal aid programs.
Dunn said it can be helpful when congressmen or state lawmakers come out to visit.
“It’s always good to have him familiar with the town,” he said of Murphy. “If we can find a little bit of funding here or there, that can help.”