The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Historic market reopening under new owners

Focus will be locally sourced, produced goods, such as milk, eggs, jams

- By Josh LaBella

LEBANON — Handymen were busy in Market on the Green Thursday, helping owner Morgan Hepple get the historic Green Store ready for its reopening as Market on the Green in two weeks.

Several people stopped by to ask when it would launch, and whether the shop will carry certain products, such as bacon and local eggs. Hepple, a Mansfield resident, said she is excited

for her store to become a fixture in the community.

“I’m not from Lebanon, but people have been very welcoming so far, and curious,” she said. “They have been letting us know what they want to have here. I think it’s a very convenient spot.”

In the winter, Hepple said, the store will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. — and those hours might be extended during the warmer months.

Hepple thinks of herself as an entreprene­ur at heart. Her husband Peter Alba, who grew up next door to the

shop, and whose mother used to work in the building when it was called The Frying Pan, always talked about the business when the couple would drive by.

Once the previous owners closed the store, she saw an opportunit­y. “It sounded like they had a pretty good run, but it was a lot to maintain and keep up,” Hepple said. “They were at the point where they were looking to get out.”

With that, Hepple said, she took over the lease in September after discussing what worked and what did not with the previous owners. She learned that self-entertainm­ent has been gaining importance during the pandemic:

“being able to have access to local products,” she said.

“That kind of got the wheels spinning for me,” said Hepple, who added that she was excited for the next iteration of the historic business.

“What we ended up doing last year, when a lot of things were closed down, were these little New England tours,” she said. “We’d do weekend trips up to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and the favorite places I liked to go were the little country stores.”

Hepple said she hopes to replicate that, with plans for a deli, with breakfast and lunch sandwiches, coffee and baked goods. Market on the

Green will also carry items of convenienc­e, but Hepple’s favorite part is the plan to sell local products, such as candles, soaps and produce.

“Our focus is going to be locally sourced and produced goods,” she said, such as milk, eggs, jams, honey and pickled food.

Hepple said the store has been an important part of Lebanon for decades, and she hopes locally sourced goods will help put a spotlight back on the business. If there is something they can not get from the area, she said, she will procure it from Eastern Connecticu­t or throughout New England if necessary.

Renovation­s are going steady, Hepple said, and the

couple are working on cleaning, opening and brightenin­g the space up, as well as adding features, such as a seating area for patrons. They are on track to open on Halloween weekend.

However, Hepple said, the process has been akin to opening Pandora’s Box.

“It’s an old building, and so, when you start renovating more things, it just leads to more things to fix,” she said.

Hepple said the food service portion of the business might take a bit longer to launch, as they are awaiting on various health inspection­s to ensure the building is up to code. Still, she wants to use that weekend as a way to get to know the community.

“We need to invite the community in and listen to the feedback,” she said. “We’re not going to be everything to everyone, but I think if people do need the one-stop shop for a convenient place to go or they need a place for home decor or gifts ... I think that we can be that.”

Hepple said she is happy to be there and is open to ideas, and would love to hear from anyone with a talent or skill in creating local items that she she might sell at the store.

“That’s the feel we want the store to have — a homegrown feel,” she said. “Stop by and see what we have.”

The market is located at 199. W Town St. in Lebanon.

 ?? Josh LaBella / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Market on the Green, opening on Halloween weekend, is the newest iteration of Lebanon’s historic Green Store.
Josh LaBella / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Market on the Green, opening on Halloween weekend, is the newest iteration of Lebanon’s historic Green Store.

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