Work under way to rebuild landmark Northford Store

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
April 17, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — Work is starting to rebuild the Northford Store, which burned to the ground in a devastating fire last month.

Store owner Nick Demos has hired an engineering firm, Nafis & Young of North Branford, and preliminary work began this week to survey the site.

Demos said he plans to put up a “large, Colonial-style building” that would include a store on the ground floor and residential space upstairs.

The planning work is still in the early design stages, but Demos added that he hopes to break ground this summer.

“It’s the only local grocery store in that entire area, and there’s a very large need for it,” he said. “It’s a community market, so we want to stay in the community and keep it going.”

The original part of the destroyed store was built in 1840, town historians said at the time of the fire.

The upper floors of the three-story structure had served as dance halls and meeting rooms for town events.

The former owners put on an addition in 1978. Demos has owned the store since 2004.

The site of the store, at 1405 Middletown Ave., is currently surrounded by a chain link fence with a sign reading “Thank You Northford.” The charred shell of the building has been removed, although some parts of the foundation remain.

Demos said the town has been responsive so far as he has started the rebuilding process.

“The town’s been extremely, extremely helpful and giving, and that goes for the townspeople and the town officials,” he said. “All the officials in the town have committed to assist me in whatever way possible to get the store up and running as quickly and painlessly as possible.”

This week, two workers from Nafis & Young at the site said they were conducting preliminary topographical work to survey the area’s drainage and grading, among other items.

Town Planner Carol Zebb said that Demos has not formally submitted plans for the new building yet.

The site plan would need to receive approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission and possibly the Zoning Board of Appeals, depending on the proposal.

Zebb added that there is no requirement to stay within the original building’s footprint.

The March 9 fire gutted the 1840 structure and leveled the one-story addition. The building was a total loss.

Fire Chief William Seward III said Wednesday that the cause of the fire is officially undetermined, but fire officials believe it was related to the building’s furnace.

Demos said that if construction starts this summer, a new store could be open by the end of the year.

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