NEW MILFORD -- As Homeward Bound vacates the premises at 20 Bank St., a national wholesale importer plans to open its first retail store there.

Steven Wilburn, the former national creative director for Sacks Fifth Avenue, plans to open Spruce Home & Garden store in the building that was for decades Hart's 5 & 10 cent store and more recently was home to Homeward Bound.

Far from a "5 and dime," Spruce Home & Garden will carry upper-end garden products, large garden sculptures, and home products and accessories, Wilburn said.

A line of gift items will be included, with pricing from $10 and up.

"We will definitely have a core base in garden supplies, but there will also be seasonal changes in offerings," said Wilburn, whose last project for Sacks was designing its Boston store.

A Sherman resident, Wilburn left Sacks in April 2005. He now is president of U.S. retail for RGS Global Resource and Design.

The firm's first venture into retail sales will be the shop in New Milford, where Wilburn will also have his office.

"This will be our first retail store," Wilburn said Monday. "We have a nice wholesale business, and our goal is to perfect our retail model and roll out three to five retail locations a year."

Janette Greenberg, president of RGS Global, said discussions were underway to open a retail location when Wilburn heard about the Bank Street site opening up.

"We're very excited," Greenberg said from RGS' New York office. "We wanted a smalltown location, and with the kind of traffic we have in that area, we feel it is a good fit for our start in retail sales."

Vin Nolan, New Milford's economic development supervisor, said the 20 Bank St. site is similar to the former Mark Ford propperty on Danbury Road, where Agway Agriventure is relocating.

"Good business property in a good location won't sit vacant long," Nolan observed.

"The almost instantaneous refilling of that (Bank Street) space speaks volumes about the positive track the village center is on," said Nolan, who gave kudos to landlord Gary Goldring.

Homeward Bound closed earlier this month.

"Mr. Goldring understands the vibrancy issue of the village center and makes it easy for people to do business with him," Nolan said.

With a planned store opening on Nov. 5, Wilburn has offered the Bank Street storefront for use in this year's Harvest Festival on Bank Street on Oct. 10.

Planters will be in place, and a window display will be ready in time for the community festivities, he said Monday.

"I spent 20 years in retail sales at Sacks, and we were all about supporting the community," Wilburn said.

"Plans are to keep Spruce open late," he related. "I hear all the time from people that they would like to support local businesses. But when stores close at 5 p.m., there's no way they can do that."

Contact Susan Tuz


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