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The Perfect Pear, which offers cookware, classes, and expert advice, is one of the new storefronts in Chester Village. (Photo by Michelle Anjirbag/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Black Kat Leather is tucked along the Pattaconk in Chester. (Photo by Michelle Anjirbag/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Over the past few months, Chester residents and visitors will have noticed some new storefronts around town. Since August, a boutique for handmade leather goods, a chef-curated kitchen and table-wares store, a Thai restaurant, and a gallery featuring unique art pieces and sculptures have all opened their doors.
Black Kat Leather was opened in October 2016 by owner Drew Archer at 1 Main Street. Archer, who grew up in Old Lyme, moved back to Connecticut after quitting his job out in California. His shop features handmade leather purses, handbags, totes, and duffels, which you can find him working on in the store, as well as small leather accessories such as belts and bracelets. His goods have been featured at arts and crafts fairs around New England and elsewhere, but as an artisan, having a storefront is “the ideal,” he says.
“I’m a little low on stock right now,” said Archer. “People really came out and shopped during the holidays.”
Each piece is unique, and he changes the models and types of bags as well, making cardboard mockups that can be seen above his minimalist, tidy workstation at the front of the store, before making the patterns off of which he’ll construct the bags. Black Kat also features work by other artisans and local companies, including candles from The Higganum Co., Aquinnah Jewelry by Kelley Solomon, and Payne & Comfort knitwear. Archer’s leather goods can also be found at khaki & black in Madison.
Around the corner at 4 Water Street, Thai Riverside serves authentic Thai food with fresh ingredients. Since August 2016, their menu has featured classics like red and green curry and Pad Thai, as well as the more adventurous-sounding Tango Mango and Crying Tiger. Customers can decide how hot they want each dish as well, choosing between mild, slightly spicy, or very hot. It also offers buffet style catering, in-home cooking for private dinner parties, and take out. A sign outside the door also announces that it’s a BYOB restaurant for those who wish to dine in but also want to have something more adult accompany their meals.
Matt Austin Studio, on the corner of Water and Main Street, is open by appointment only, but a range of the artist’s works can be found online at www.mattaustinstudio.com. In addition to the many pieces of fine art and examples of his mural work on display online, Austin also makes a series of unique glass sconces, made to individual customer specification. The artist can be reached at email@example.com.
Further up the road at 51 Main Street, former private chef and sommelier Laura Grimmer opened The Perfect Pear in November 2016. In addition to professionally curated kitchen, table, and bar-wares, Grimmer offers bi-monthly classes in both cooking and wine tasting, and a food give-away with a recipe during Chester’s First Friday shopping nights. Anyone looking for information on how or what to cook with, or a nudge in the right direction for a gift for a foodie will find themselves in front of an expert ready to dispense with not only advice, but down-to-earth encouragement to pursue all things culinary.
“I first came to Chester because of a client,” said Grimmer. “I’d spend the summer in Lyme and I loved the area. When you see Chester, that dream of becoming a retailer just comes to life, it’s the perfect place for it.”
“When this space opened up, I know I was the first person to see it,” said Grimmer. “I made an immediate offer.”
“What I’m amazed by is that the minute a storefront becomes available, it fills,” said Suzy Woodward, facilitator of the Chester Merchants Association and owner of Lark. “And the reasons for leaving Chester are not that they aren’t successful here—it speaks to the health of the town.
“It is enchanting here, and people who live here know it, and people who visit here recognize it and come back,” continued Woodward. “It’s a step back in time.”
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