NAUGATUCK — After nearly a year and half of work, The Station is open for business.
More than 100 people crowded into the former Naugatuck train station at 195 Water St. on Monday to celebrate the opening of the borough’s newest restaurant.
“I am humbled and extremely enthusiastic by the show of support, not just today, but for the last week. We have been absolutely swamped,” said attorney Carlos Santos, a partner in a law firm downtown who owns The Station with Jim Perzhilla, owner of Spartan II Pizza Restaurant & Lounge in Southington.
Santos and Perzhilla purchased the building from the borough for $300,000 in March 2016. As part of the deal, they pledged to spend $500,000 to renovate the building into a restaurant. However, they ended up spending around $1.3 million, Perzhilla said.
“This is my hometown. This is where I was born and raised. This is where my family is. It makes me extremely proud to take a building of this historic significance and turn it into something special,” Santos said.
The building was designed by renowned architect Henry Bacon. It dates to the 1890s and is built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.
“If I had to choose one word to describe today and this event, it would be ‘spectacular,’” said Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess during the grand opening.
Before Santos and Perzhilla bought the former train station, the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce and the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation had offices in the building, and it was the site of the Naugatuck Historical Society museum.
The former train station also used to be owned by the Hennick family, which owned the now-defunct Naugatuck Daily News, the predecessor of the Citizen’s News. At one time, the Naugatuck Daily News was published out of the building.
Tom Hennick was on hand Monday for the celebration. He said his family owned the Naugatuck Daily News until 1987 and the building itself until the mid-1990s.
“My father and grandfather had a vision of making sure this building survived because when they bought it was pretty much vacant. The railroad was only using a small portion. So, it is neat to see it alive again,” Hennick said.
Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce Director Courtney Ligi added, “I am glad they can revive a historic building, bring it back to life, and have so many people enjoy it as much as I enjoyed it while having my office in there. I am very excited and wish them the best of luck,” Ligi said.
While The Station is now open, finding someone willing to renovate it into a restaurant wasn’t an easy task, Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation CEO and President Ron Pugliese said.
“We showed this building many, many times over the last few years. Everybody that came in here loved the building but always told me how difficult, some even said impossible, it would be to turn this into a first-class restaurant,” Pugliese said.
However, that changed on the day Santos and Pugliese brought Perzhilla to see it.
“He had that look that many young kids have on Christmas morning on his face. He was excited the moment he saw it and he saw the possibilities,” Pugliese said.
For Perzhilla, the project came out just as he hoped it would.
“This is exactly what I actually saw,” Perzhilla said.
Officials viewed the opening of The Station as a step in the right direction for Naugatuck.
Ligi said the restaurant’s opening can help attract people and other businesses to the borough.
“Once one person puts their footprint down it usually creates 100 more,” she said. “We are hoping that is what this does.”
Hess pointed to the variety of projects the borough has going on, including the renovation of Prospect Street School, the creation of the Naugatuck Event Center, and the upcoming groundbreaking at Parcel C.
“This is the beginning of the transformation of Naugatuck from a town on the river to one of the most spectacular towns in Connecticut,” Hess said.
The Republican-American contributed to this article.