Any suggestions for Bridgewater Village Store?

What to do with an iconic landmark in the middle of the Bridgewater village center?

Financier and multi-millionaire Peter May has reached out recently to fellow residents in his part-time community for suggestions on improving revenue at the Bridgewater Village Store.

May has owned the store for 25 years and, during the span, he said, has lost "an aggregate of almost $1.5 million."

So he wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to the community.

"We have considered these losses our contribution to the life of the town and we are not looking for the store to be a profitable enterprise," May wrote, "but we would not like to see these losses escalate."

Union Savings Bnk closed its branch in the south wing of the building at the end of May.

May wonders if he should bring in a new business or expand on the present store.

The bank lease had helped offset maintenance costs on the century-old building.

Now May sees a possible opportunity to expand the store and its offerings.

He is querying residents on possibly offering "beer & wine?" or having "an expanded deli or restaurant?"

As Bridgewater is the last dry town in the state, May would have to achieve a change in town ordinance to accomplish the former.

A meeting has been arranged Saturday among May and the three first selectman candidates in the upcoming November election -- Democrat Curtis Read; Republican Nancy Hawley and Independent Neil Cable.

"I hope to hear from Mr. May about what his thoughts are on the store. I'm all ears," Read said. "The store is very important and also very visible in the town."

"For whoever is elected," he added, "this will be part of the mix to keeping the town vibrant."

Cable lauded May for the restoration of the building and its ongoing maintenance. He said he is eager to meet with May to discuss the store's future.

"I think some people in town have the wrong take on Peter May's letter," Cable said. "He's interested in how to use the now vacant space, in hearing what residents want there. Nothing else."

Hawley offered praise to May for communicating with fellow residents.

"I applaud this effort to reach out to the community for input on how best to move forward with the Village Store property," she said.

"We all have a vested interest in revitalizing the center of town," Hawley added, "and encouraging a thoughtful, productive dialogue is a step toward determining what might be a suitable fit for our town and a wise investment for Mr. May."

Perhaps the biggest recent success story related to the Bridgewater Village Store has been Erik Landegren's Bridgewater Chocolates.

Landegren began whipping up chocolates in 1996 in the store's basement bakery, which he was managing.

He packaged a few boxes and set them out to sell in the store during Christmas season. Today, Bridgewater Chocolates is a thriving business with chocolates sold throughout Fairfield County and this part of Litchfield County.

May lives in Bridgewater part-time at his 40-acre estate, Maywood.

In June, Maywood Gardens, on the property are open to the public to tour. Freshly cut flowers, vegetables and field crops grown at the estate are offered for sale in the Bridgewater Village Store.

May, the president and founding partner of Trian Partners, a New York-based investment management firm, holds numerous chairman and vice chairman positions in major financial enterprises.

He is chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

. I understand Peter May has reached out to several people, but I would prefer not to speculate on meetings that have not yet taken place. I can, however, provide an opinion on the letter that residents received from Mr. May. I applaud this effort to reach out to the community for input on how best to move forward with the Village Store property. We all have a vested interest in revitalizing the center of Town, and encouraging a thoughtful, productive dialog is a step toward determining what might be a suitable fit for our Town and a wise investment for Mr. May.