NAUGATUCK — A new bar has found a home at the old corner.
Naugatuck resident Ryan Whipple, 35, and Tara Mirto, 37, of New Haven, bought the equipment and the rights to the Old Corner Cafe for $106,000 from former owner Eugene “Beany” Ferreira last month.
The bar, which has been a fixture at 178 North Main St., is currently closed as renovations are being done to the 102-year-old pub.
Whipple and Mirto said they hope to have the bar open by Halloween. When the bar does open, it will do so under a new name — The Corner Tavern.
Whipple said the name is a combination of Behlman’s Tavern, which was in that location from 1911 until 1972, and The Old Corner Cafe.
The name isn’t the only change that Whipple and Mirto are bringing to the bar. Whipple said there will be a lot of new equipment behind the bar and new draft systems with 27 lines. The kitchen is also being updated so that food will be available in the bar.
“It’s going to be a lot of stuff that the average customer sitting here isn’t going to notice, but it’s going to affect the quality and service of your experience,” Whipple said.
Whipple said one of the changes patrons will notice is that the bar will have a stage with an in-house sound system.
“We’re hoping to do open mic nights and acoustic cafes and test out the local talent for music in the area,” Whipple said. “We’re looking to have entertainment at least Thursday through Saturday.”
Whipple said he wants to be able to offer a bar with a local feel that has the potential to draw a large crowd from other areas.
“We don’t want to just be the local bar,” Whipple said. “We want to try to create a place that draws people in from other towns.”
Whipple and Mirto also want to revamp the overall feel of the place from being a bar to being a part of the borough’s history.
“We’re trying to work with the historical society to make it a history piece in here in that, instead of having Guinness signs all over and Sam Adams and whatever tins that the distributers want to give us, we want to have nice artwork from the town, pictures of the historical buildings, newspaper clippings of big events in the town from the flood to the boys baseball team winning, nice pictures of Uniroyal, to celebrate the town in its heyday and to show what we’re trying to do now in the present,” Whipple said.
However, Whipple knows that it isn’t the physical changes that will keep patrons coming back to the bar again and again.
“It’s more about how you interact with your customers. Do you make them feel welcome? Do you make them want to come back not just for what you’re offering for them to buy, but for how you make them feel when they leave here, about the people they met and how they were treated,” Whipple said.
Owning a bar was a natural step for Whipple and Mirto, both of whom have worked in the local bar scene for many years.
“There comes a time when you have to stop working for other people and start doing your own thing,” Whipple said.
When the Old Corner Café became available Whipple and Mirto decided it was the opportunity they had been waiting for.
“It’s hard to come across bars that have the bones that this one has. You can build stuff like that, like the back board, but you can’t find tile floors and tin ceilings. It has a nice rustic, quaint atmosphere that is just hard to buy,” Whipple said.
Although they are making changes to the bar, one thing that will remain the same is the commitment to the community. Whipple said community events hosted at the bar, like the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day 5K, will continue.
“We really want to be involved in the community. Whatever the bar was doing, whether they were sponsoring the 5K or they were doing pasta dinners to raise money during storms for people that were out of power, we want to keep doing all of that and add on to that,” Whipple said.
The bar has begun serving the community before it has even opened its doors.
Whipple and Mirto are selling off all of the furniture, signs and decorations that were in the bar. The money they raise will go to the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank.
“We still have a lot of stuff left and, as of right now, we’ve already raised about $700 for the food bank,” Whipple said on Monday afternoon.
People interested in buying items from the bar can stop by during the day.
“We don’t want to just be the corner bar. That will be our main business, but we want to help out and give back,” Whipple said.
As work continues to renovate the bar, Mirto thinks people will like the finished product.
“I know people are worried about what we’re doing but I think everybody will be OK when they see what comes out of here. When they see our ideas and our plans I think everybody will be happy,” Mirto said.