Two years ago, SoNo Baking Company took over the downtown coffee shop space vacated by Java.
The popular mini-chain — with branches in Norwalk and Darien — drew 150 to 200 people a day, 300 on weekends. Customers came to eat and meet — despite the noise and dust of the Bedford Square construction project, diagonally across Church Lane.
But now — the moment the retail/restaurant/residential complex is opening — SoNo Baking is closing. Owner John Barricelli expects to sell his final coffees, pastries and salads by Easter.
Moving in is Aux Delices. They’ll keep their other Westport store next to Carvel. This will be the 5th location, with 2 in Greenwich and 1 in Darien. Aux Delices offers imported and local foods, freshly baked desserts and full-service catering.
“The rent was astronomical,” laments SoNo owner John Barricelli. “We couldn’t pay what we owed on coffee and cake. We fell behind, and it got to be a huge burden. I’ve never walked away from a bill in my life.
“If we were going in now, we might have had a chance. But the numbers didn’t add up.
“To make it there we needed alcohol, and to be open 24/7. For some reason, at 2 p.m. downtown gets very quiet. We had plenty of people in the morning, and until 2. But with the average check of $10 to $15 — you do the math.”
Barricelli calls SoNo’s closing “very sad.”
But he’s not giving up on Westport. He’s looking for another site near Southport — close to their previous location, near A&J’s Farm Stand.
And speaking of farmers: SoNo Baking was an original vendor at the Westport Farmers’ Market.
They’ll still be there this summer.