The name on the old factory building on Hartford’s Pope Park Highway — visible from I-84 to tens of thousands of motorists daily — can be a powerful billboard for its occupant, and the name is about to change.
New owner Hartford Restaurant Group, which operates Wood-N-Tap, Agave Grill and TD Homer’s Grill, has acquired the five-story building in a foreclosure and plans to take advantage of the prime marketing space.
Co-owner Phil Barnett told me that HRG is now exploring what name might appear on the 38,000-square-foot structure. But a good bet is that Wood-N-Tap — which now has six locations in the state and is about to expand to a seventh, in Wallingford — will replace the Lyman Kitchens name.
Barnett said HRG doesn’t plan to open one of its restaurants in the building. It will likely be used initially for storage for its growing restaurant business and possibly its corporate office. The offices are now in the same building as the first Wood-N-Tap on Hartford’s Sisson Avenue.
“We are looking to grow all three brands,” Barnett said. “Having a little more room will facilitate that.”
Other ideas being kicked around are using part of the space for centralized commissary to daily create sauces, soups and other menu items served at HRG restaurants. The building also could be partly leased to a restaurant furniture manufacturer.
Right now, HRG is cleaning up the building, including removing grafitti. A worker this morning was raking landscape debris in front of the building.
The 1890s brick structure was once part of Pope Manufacturing, and later owned by the U.S. Rubber Co., which produced tubing for Pope Columbia bikes and the Pope automobiles.
HRG purchased the building for $250,000 from Link Real Estate LLC, whose managing member is Brian Lyman. Lyman Kitchens had occupied the building since 1995 using it for a showroom and factory, relocating from South Windsor.
Lyman later purchased the property, which is next to a larger building renovated by developer Carlos Mouta. Mouta’s building is considered the cornerstone for revitalization in the city’s Parkville neighborhood.
The property slipped into foreclosure a year ago, after Link fell behind on payments on a $750,000 mortgage, according to court documents. Link also was delinquent paying city property taxes, and the company that purchased $41,700 in tax liens from the city separately filed for foreclosure this past spring.
Earlier this year, Lyman moved to smaller quarters in Newington. Brian Lyman did not return a telephone call from Property Line seeking comment; but according to Lyman web site, the economic downturn forced the company to move to a smaller space.