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Building Up a Business – and a Community

Spiro and Julia always wanted to use their passions for food to create a business. But when they were handed a one-of-a-kind property, they knew they had tapped into something bigger than themselves.

Planting the seed

When business owners Spiro and Julia Koulouris moved to Wethersfield, they already knew they wanted to use their passions for food to create something together. They both worked in the restaurant business for years. Spiro worked at The Half Door and Firebox Restaurant in Hartford, meanwhile Julia’s background is in baking as a pastry chef.

Spiro happened upon Comstock Ferre and spoke to the manager about starting a country market. The manager, who happened to be a fan of Firebox Restaurant, was willing to help – proving if you ask the right person the right question at the right time, anything can happen. This connection sparked the beginnings of a business that would ultimately impact an entire community.

Initially, Spiro and Julia imagined renting just a corner of the store. But soon, they were managing the entire property — and making it what it is today. They didn’t set out to change the space, but rather enhance it. In the same way live music, bar stools, and craft brew aromas comprise pub culture, they aim to create the same intangible experience and sense of comradery — but with cafe culture.

They tapped into their current relationships with local farmers to create an organic market, which only grew from there. Heirloom Market eventually became a café, an event space, and a community hub for happenings in Old Wethersfield, from Coffee with The Governor to Friday Night Barbecues, pet adoption events, and bridal showers. If it supports and celebrates the community, their doors are open.

Growing With the Community

Heirloom Market’s deep roots in the Wethersfield community helped the business grow and flourish.

Just as the community needed the market’s goods, the market needed the support of the community. From painters who set up their easels out front to the vendors who participate in their events, locals leaned in to cultivate a community experience in a historic space.

Spiro and Julia always lent an ear to the community’s needs, especially as they shifted during the pandemic. When customers expressed an interest in more cafe offerings, they expanded their menu — they were always open and ready to pivot. The goal? To make the Heirloom Market experience better for everyone.

Heirloom Market would not be the same if it were in a different spot. It is what it is today because Spiro and Julia embraced the space itself as well as its culture and history.

Recently named the state’s fourth Cultural District — a walkable area of town featuring numerous cultural attractions  the community of Old Wethersfield is deeply woven into the market. They allowed the Comstock Ferre location to be the heartbeat of the business, fitting their business model into the space rather than constructing the space around their business model.

Heirloom Market at Comstock Ferre extended its hours, using its newly renovated bar for a beer program with local drafts and a cocktail program with garden-style cocktails.

Additionally, their greenhouse and backyard will serve as extra seating and a beautiful event space, while a newly renovated kitchen will allow them to create more products and expand their menu.

The couple feels that Comstock Ferre is a truly special location; it’s bursting with atmosphere and it’s a place people want to be. So, each expansion is aimed at opening the building to the community and ensuring that these historic spaces are appreciated and given purpose.

Expert insight

Six years in, Spiro and Julia have learned you must be resilient and flexible when starting a business. While it’s exciting to tap into your passions, you must be willing to put yourself through challenges as well.

Their best advice? Start small and build big. Be open to the possibilities, shift when necessary, and share your story with others — you never know when an important connection may form.

Heirloom Market at Comstock Ferre may be community-focused, but they’re where they are today because the Old Wethersfield community supported them. The couple not only created their own legacy, but a legacy the entire community can take pride in.

Spiro and Julia are continuously dreaming up new ways to cultivate a sense of community at Comstock Ferre — here’s to seeing what’s in store!

Start small and build big. Be open to the possibilities, shift when necessary, and share your story with others — you never know when an important connection may form.

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