May 22, 2018

New Sweet Shoppe in Essex Makes You Forget the Sour Economy

Friend Connie Connor; owner Celene Sweck, and customer Judy Heiser

“She’s an entrepreneur,” says one of her friends about Selene Sweck, who has just opened Selene’s Sweet Shoppe in downtown Essex. Not only has Sweck launched a bright new Sweet Shoppe on Main Street, she also has a number other businesses.

For one, Sweck owns Porky Pete’s BBQ out on Westbrook Road. (“Pete” is the name of Sweck’s husband.) This extremely successful business has its tenth anniversary coming up soon.

Sweck also owns an extensive catering business, which she used to run out of Porky Pete’s. However, she felt that wedding planning was a bit incongruous in the middle of a barbeque operation, so she moved her catering consultations to the room right next to the Sweet Shoppe.

This new room is tastefully decorated, and just perfect for wedding planning and other special events. As for planning a wedding, Sweck says that her Event Planner, Lori Blair, “can handle the whole thing.”

Cake in the window of new Sweet Shoppe

In addition to organizing weddings and special events, Sweck’s catering operation provides corporate lunches on weekdays for four cafeterias of a major local cooperation.

Completing the reach of Sweck’s businesses is the outdoor food station that she and her husband run at the Clinton Crossing Shopping Mall. Open from Spring until November, the menu is hot dogs and grilled meats, which they sell to hungry shoppers.

A sweet spot for the Sweet Shoppe

Still, among all her ventures, Sweck clearly takes great pride in her new Sweet Shoppe. The staff members at the shop are all personal friends, and sometimes there appears to be more chattering going on among sales people and customers, than there is about selling the sweet stuff.

People who are shopping at the new Sweet Shoppe give it rave reviews. “It’s wonderful,” said Judy Heiser of Essex the other day; “It bubbles. It’s gorgeous, and it’s just what you need for Christmas.”

Children's candy on the Honor System

The Sweet Shoppe also is the kind of place where it is perfectly appropriate to buy just one piece of candy. However, be warned that some of the candies can be so intensely sweet that they should be eaten only in small bites. Otherwise the taster may end up with “sugar shock,” at least for awhile.

Another tantalizing specialty at the Sweet Shoppe is a collection of chocolate turtles of varying sizes. The turtles have a pecan base, a caramel inside, with the whole encased in chocolate. If you want to buy a little turtle, they are a reasonable ninety cents, with a larger turtle costing $3.95, and they can be addictive.

The Sweet Shoppe sells four kinds of special breads. They are: (1) a French baguette, (2) an Asiago cheese bread, (3) a multi-grain baguette and (4) a black cranberry and walnut bread. In addition, of course, the Sweet Shoppe sells a wide variety of cakes with thick, thick frosting.

Children on the honor system

Another highlight of the Sweet Shoppe is that one whole side of the shop is now dedicated to offering tempting delicacies for children. The children can select whatever candies they wish, and they pay for them strictly under the honor system. Small piggy banks are among the candies, so that the children can insert the proper number of coins for their purchases.

The new sweet shop appears to be on its way to becoming a great success, if the number of people visiting it the other day is any indication.  Also, very importantly, the existence of this evidently successful new business on Essex’s Main Street is a healthy sign of a better local economy.

Right next door to the Sweet Shoppe is another new business that has just opened its doors on Main Street. It is a new interior and decorating business, which offers professional decorating consultations by its co-owners, Jessica Whelen and Dennis Pough. Also on the premises is an extensive line of home accessories including, pillows, candles, faux floral arrangements and hand blown glass creations.

Giving even further evidence that new, good things are happening on Main Street, is the new ownership of the “Silkworm of Essex Village” just down the way. The new Proprietor, Raeann Groves, notes that the new Silkworm offers a variety of high end women’s clothing that cannot be found in ordinary department stores. She mentions, specifically, the Gerard Darel and the Sitamurt clothing brands that the store carries.

Also, there is presently a 20% off sale on select items at the Silkworm.

The "Silkworm" on Main Street under new ownership - has 20% off sale

However, downtown Essex still has perhaps an overabundance of real estate sales offices on Main Street. There were no less than six of them by last count. However, one cannot gainsay that when tourists come to Essex, looking at the realtors’ photographs of houses for sale, is a favorite pastime.

Finally, on the down side of Essex having a truly vibrant Main Street is the still empty, former Left Bank Gallery space. This property is owned by the Paul family, who also own what is truly an Essex landmark, the Griswold Inn.

Still vacant, former Left Bank Gallery

Reportedly, Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman will be discussing with the owners of the old gallery property new strategies on how to get this most attractive downtown property bustling again.

One possibility that ever the entrepreneurial Sweck tossed out in a recent conversation, is that the old gallery space might be converted into an entertainment venue for wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations and the like. If this were to happen, you can be assured that Sweck would be delighted to do the catering.

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