It’s been almost two years since Somos Arepas opened in downtown New Haven at the beginning of the pandemic.
“We were supposed to open up in March so two weeks before we opened up COVID hit,” said Andres Cordido, co-owner of Somos Arepas. “So, we closed down until June and opened up right in the middle of June.”
It was an uncertain time for the first-time business owner and his brother.
“We weren’t sure what to do. Every day was a new change, every day was a new mandate, every day was just new things that we had to do, Cordido said.
Cordido and his brother were able to navigate the pandemic and stay afloat, perfecting his grandmother’s recipes from Venezuela and building loyal customers.
“He’s the one that said, ‘oh have this and have that’ and everything’s been very good,” said Dave Tolla, who discovered the restaurant while working at a site nearby.
It’s a pandemic success story not often heard of. He admits there’s not a lot of money made in the food industry right now, and the Omicron wave slowed business, but the pair is taking another leap of faith.
“We decided to start expanding. We saw the numbers were doing okay, and hopefully this is the bottom of the barrel and we can only go up from here,” Cordido said.
The future home of the second Somos location is in Shelton, which Cordido calls a “hidden gem.”
“We always had it in the back of our minds ‘Shelton,’ because we really liked Shelton,” Cordido said. “When we went there, we were really excited because we saw how people were eating out, everything was really busy.”
“I’ve always thought of the fact that Shelton is probably one of the most affordable places to work, live and do business in,” said Mayor Mark Lauretti.
He’s led the city for 30 years. Lately, he said he’s getting calls several times a week for businesses looking to relocate. The key: keeping the mill rate reasonable.
“It very rarely goes up, if at all. In fact, I think, I want to say in 22 times we have either left the mill rate alone or lowered it,” Lauretti said.
It’s a draw for small businesses like Somos and large ones like Bigelow Tea. The affordable taxes are also a draw for residents of all demographics.
“That creates a very predictable environment for businesses, for seniors who are living on a fixed income, for young families who are making mortgage payments and college tuitions,” Lauretti said.
Plans are to open the Somos Arepas location in Shelton on April 1. They’re keeping the location a secret for now, but the word is out on how tasty success may be.
“I think they’ll do very good,” Tolla said. “And if I’m in the area working, I’ll be there.”