The Day

Gun shop moves to Norwich, cites better location

- By CLAIRE BESSETTE Day Staff Writer

Brown paper that had Norwich — covered the large front windows at the former Uncas Pharmacy came down last weekend, with a metal security gate now stretched across the windows of the new 6 Guys Firearms & Supply shop.

Sidewalk display boards announce: “Gun Shop,” with arrows pointing to the new store.

Owner Andy Whitehead, 56, of Killingly, moved his shop to this spot down the street from the Norwichtow­n Commons shopping center after operating for the past six years at 60 Community Ave. in Plainfield. Whitehead said as he started planning for an expansion, he wanted to find a better location. He purchased the former Uncas Pharmacy building in November for $140,000.

“It’s a better location, better demographi­cs, traffic counts,” Whitehead said. He added that within five miles of his Plainfield location, there were eight gun shops. Norwich has just one other shop, A-Z Pawn on East Main Street.

Whitehead plans to add a pawn business to his shop, dedicating the left half of the floor space to the pawn store.

“That’s a new experience for us,” he said, adding that he is awaiting computer software to ensure he is in compliance with state laws on pawn shops.

The gun shop name comes from his family, Whitehead said. He and his wife, Nancy Van Belle have five sons. As they grew up, all joined Whitehead as avid gun enthusiast­s. So, although they are not business partners, he named his shop 6 Guys Firearms & Supply.

His oldest son, Drew Whitehead, 31, of Brooklyn, teaches a National Rifle Associatio­n concealed carry pistol safety training class.

Whitehead hopes to set up the wide open basement of his shop as a pistol class location. He does not yet have city building and zoning permits for that use.

Whitehead, who was elected to the Killingly Town Council in November, said his first week in Norwich went well, even though he still is in transition and not fully set up. He praised the city building inspectors, fire marshal, police and zoning office for their assistance through the permit process.

The shop sells new and used handguns and long guns, modern and historical. He said his oldest firearms date to the early 1700s, and he has some Civil War-era models.

Mayor Peter Nystrom said he did not know the gun shop was coming to Town Street until the signs appeared on the sidewalk and the window coverings were removed. Nystrom said he has heard a few complaints about the shop but said it is a commercial use in a commercial building.

“People may not like it, and can express their opinions on it, but it’s kind of a done deal,” Nystrom said.

Former Alderwoman Joanne Philbrick, who lives nearby at the Norwichtow­n Green, objected to the new gun shop during public comment at the Feb. 21 council meeting. She said she supports people’s right to carry a gun — “In fact I think in today’s society you’d be foolish not to have one” — but that she bought a house in Norwichtow­n because she wanted to live in a quiet, historic neighborho­od.

She also objected to the plan to add a pawn shop to the business.

Police Chief Patrick Daley said the police department checks the license and verifies the owner’s state and federal permit paperwork before approving a gun shop permit.

“We don’t have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” he said.

Whitehead said he has had a positive reception to his shop and invites neighbors to visit the shop and ask questions. He said the COVID-19 pandemic crime wave has led many people to consider purchasing guns for the first time.

“Some people buy guns to protect themselves. Some people are new to firearms,” Whitehead said. “There’s a lot, a lot, a lot of people who are into firearms, first for protection.”

Neighbors Andrea and Richard Crawford, who live two doors from the shop at 16 Town St., already had visited Whitehead when they returned to the shop Thursday afternoon. Andrea Crawford said when she was young and was at her grandmothe­r’s house next door to her current home, she would walk in her pajamas to Uncas Pharmacy, owned by Harry and Selma Swatsburg, for ice cream.

As the Crawfords entered the shop Thursday, Whitehead jokingly asked if they wanted to buy candy or an ice cream.

“I think it’s great to have him here. I feel safe,” Andrea Crawford said.

“I wish you lots of luck,” Richard Crawford said as the couple left the shop Thursday.

 ?? DANA JENSEN THE DAY ?? Jon Cicarelli, left, helps customer David Giroux at the new 6 Guys Firearms and Supply in Norwich on Friday. Cicarelli is a friend of owner Andy Whitehead and helps out at the shop.
DANA JENSEN THE DAY Jon Cicarelli, left, helps customer David Giroux at the new 6 Guys Firearms and Supply in Norwich on Friday. Cicarelli is a friend of owner Andy Whitehead and helps out at the shop.

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