New Canaan's Lasting Local Businesses

While several of the town's venerable businesses have shuttered their doors recently, others have persisted for decades and continue to serve residents.


It is with a heavy heart that a community bids farewell to a town fixture. In less than two years, New Canaan has watched , in town since 1925, and , in town since 1974, close their doors for good. And who didn't love an Italian ice from the Sweet Shoppe on a summer day?

There are, however, nearly a dozen businesses in town that have stood the test of time and continue to remain a staple in the lives of locals.

Ronald Reagan was president, Michael Jackson was producing pure gold and giant perms were in vogue when was established in New Canaan. Owner Jim Berry says the party supplies store has managed to weather the storms of multiple recessions by evolving with the times.

“We’ve never gotten back to the business we were in 2008,” said Berry of tough economic times, “but we’re working hard. We’re constantly reinventing ourselves. If we hadn’t evolved since 2008, we might not be open.

“There are some people who think all we sell is newspapers. There are some kids who think all we sell is candy. What we really are is like a mini Party City, though. Our mission right now is to diversify our inventory and emphasize party goods,” said Berry.

Berry says that as customers change, their needs change and so too must Mackenzies.

Mackenzies is the new kid on the block, however, compared to the likes of (1907),


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(1854), the (1947) and , which has served as a fixture in New Canaan for the last 80 years.

Another favorite in town is celebrating 35 years serving New Canaan - . Owner John Bergin says consistency is key when it comes to customer satisfaction at the popular dining establishment.  

“It’s all about providing consistently excellent services and great food,” said Bergin, “and a friendly atmosphere with friendly faces. There’s people you can count on being here. I’ve had the same staff for my entire tenure so far. We try to make subtle changes, but we’ve pretty much had the same menu for years. If someone really likes something, we try not to move it. The prices are also pretty consistent. We give you plenty of bang for your buck.”

Bergin says that "Cherry Street" is the go-to burger joint in town (the Vermonster is a must-have).

Another eatery in town is set to celebrate its 20th birthday in 2013 - on Forest Street. Owner Paul Mauk puts the restaurant’s success down to passion, effort, teamwork and quality.

“We pay great attention to detail and I’d like to believe they like what they get here and they perceive it to be a good value,” said Mauk of his customers. “We work very hard and we don’t take anything for granted. There’s not one secret, really. I’m here every day of the week, I work long hours and I enjoy it. The crew who works with me are very passionate about what they do. They like it and they do well. If we all do our job well, everyone benefits. It’s a team effort. I’d like to think that is why we will be here 20 years next September.”

The Colorado native trained in Mexico and frequents our bordering neighbors to visit friends and continue experimenting in his trade.

While we would lament the loss of any fine establishment in town, points out the silver lining of a departing business.

“We’ve lost some tried and true stores and it’s always disappointing when they have to make that painful decision,” said Murphy. “Sometimes it’s the economy, sometimes it’s a change in lifestyle, but, whatever the reason, when the older businesses leave, we do have some new ones come in, which is very exciting.”

“For all the ones that close, it is encouraging to see new businesses come to town. I am constantly getting calls from potential business owners to ask if I know of any spaces that will become available. They run the gamut, which is exciting. We just completed a , which has been helpful to me. I can point inerested parties in the direction of the study so they can make an educated decision if they want to business here,” said Murphy.

Some brand new editions in town are Bluemercury, which is a luxury cosmetics boutique, , which serves frozen yogurt and smoothies, and She La La, a jewelry and accessories boutique.

Glen K Dunbar May 03, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I have to say.; YES> Many a wonderful businesses in town. Gates comes to mind as my favorite watering hole...even though I have NO MORE TIME to hang out there because I have R E S P O N S I B I L I T I E S (GRRRRRRR) While the lot of you stroll and skip through your merry little lives. I hope You are happy !@!! Anyhow, I also like Walter Stewarts (Wally's) SOME of the people who work there are the best...others....BORING!!! I miss the places that closed up too. Can't understand how these places go out of business. I thought all the rest of you New Canaan people were loaded to the hill w/money Anyhow, thanks for the post. It is nice going down memory lane. Oh.. I LOVE MacKenzies...even though you open late now and do not sell my horse racing papers anymore. GLEN
suzanne jonker May 03, 2012 at 02:14 PM
New Canaan Shoe Repair is a long standing business in town. I have been using their services for 23 years, and think they have been in town much longer. It is now being run by the son, and he provides amazing service. When we needed a quick turnaround on a resoling of a pair of boots during October break of college- he dropped them off at my home. It may not be a glamourous business, but very necessary and they have stood the test of time in New Canaan.
ruth May 03, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Baskin Robbins has been my favorite old time establishment in New Canaan! I believe they opened up on Elm Street in the late 60's. They have always supported all the traditions of New Canaan and have delighted multitudes over the years with their cakes! Hats off to Baskin Robbins, I'll be in for Rocky Road cone soon!
Glen K Dunbar May 03, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I too Love the Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Parlor. The people that work that are many of them my friends and I care for them alot.
New Canaan Native May 04, 2012 at 01:09 AM
MacKenzie's will ALWAYS get my business...though I used to be a Breslow's/Jackson's guy. I also like Spectacles, they fitted me for my first pair of glasses and also showed me how to put in contact lenses. Walter Stewart's is a treasure, and the longevity of Gates and Cherrystreet should be saluted.


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