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August 9, 2022

Sweet Claude’s set to open in Ball & Socket complex as project takes shape

PHOTO | HANNA SNYDER GAMBINI Cheshire Coordinator of Economic Development Andrew Martelli and Town Manager Sean Kimball stand outside the new Sweet Claude's ice cream shop in Building 2 of the Ball & Socket Arts complex on West Main Street in Cheshire.

Sweet Claude’s ice cream shop could be up and running in its new location as soon as this weekend, making it the first tenant to open in the Ball & Socket Arts complex in Cheshire.

The opening of Sweet Claude’s and the ongoing revitalization of the former button factory site along West Main Street has been a group effort, led by the non-profit Ball & Socket Arts with the help of local officials and state funding. 

Sweet Claude’s owner Kelly Anne Pearce said her ice cream shop has all its permits and approvals in place to begin operating, hopefully by Aug. 12.

She is awaiting the green light from town inspectors for the entire building. The second floor has vacant space, for which town officials are working to secure a tenant. 

It’s one of several buildings on the site that’s in the midst of a major renovation – one that local officials hope will revitalize the entire West Main Street and Farmington Canal Heritage Trail corridor.

Sweet Claude's ice cream shop is ready to open as soon as this weekend in Building 2 of the Ball & Socket Arts complex on West Main Street in Cheshire. Sweet Claude’s will occupy all 3,400 square feet of the first floor in Building 2, with a 500-square-foot parlor in front and the remaining space custom-built for ice cream production.

This will be the new home for the local shop that opened in 1988 on South Main Street and now offers more than 40 flavors of homemade ice cream. 

Pearce started working at Sweet Claude’s in 2004 and bought the business from former owner Fred Klasson in 2014.

That’s around the time the Ball & Socket Arts project was kicked into high gear with a commitment of more than $2 million from the state Department of Economic and Community Development to acquire the property and transform it into a bustling arts-centered complex in the heart of Cheshire.  

Cheshire Town Manager Sean Kimball, Coordinator of Economic Development Andrew Martelli and Ball & Socket Arts Founder and President Ilona Somogyi stand outside the renovated Building 2 of the Ball & Socket Arts complex on West Main Street in Cheshire.

Ball & Socket Arts Founder and President Ilona Somogyi said the opening of Sweet Claude’s brings the group’s vision into sharper focus. 

There is “so much excitement” for the entire project as the first tenant prepares to open, Somogyi said.

ermits have been secured for mechanical work to Building 3, which sits behind Sweet Claude’s and will contain a small art gallery on the first floor and Ball & Socket Arts offices above.

The large brick Building 1 is on track to open in 3-5 years after remediation and renovation, members of the development team said. 

It will have room for creative retailers, a large art gallery, and organizations and businesses that are art-focused, Somogyi said, possibly a ceramics studio, along with educational space, a museum, and room for food vendors.

Ball & Socket Arts Chair Ron Bergamo said “it was always our plan to get an anchor tenant that would give us popularity with the public and exposure beyond our border,” he said referring to Sweet Claude’s and crediting Pearce with being patient as the project took shape around her parlor space.

The entire site contains 65,000 square feet of developable space, set on three acres. 

Coordinator of Economic Development Andrew Martelli said the opening of Sweet Claude’s is an exciting time for Cheshire and the project, which he hopes will help establish a walkable central downtown district.

Martelli is working with town boards to create a special development district to capture more businesses in that area.

The section near Ball & Socket was the last portion of the canal trail to be completed in town, and it’s the second heaviest used part of any linear trail in Connecticut, Martelli said.

Other buildings in the back of the site will soon be home to a taproom/bar, and a  multi-bay garage will be used as open-air vending space for farmers markets, Martelli said.

He has worked to bring the town on board, with the council recently approving funding for a municipal parking lot linking the back of the development to the linear trail.

The town has also committed funds to dredge the Farmington Canal and have free-flowing water between the trail and the arts complex, Martelli said.

Cheshire is also applying for another Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant to extend the brick sidewalks from West Main Street along the outer edge of Sweet Claude’s – with benches, lighting and bike racks – through to the back lot. 

Organizers and town officials have eyed funds from numerous sources including grants, donations, private investments and federal COVID relief money.

An anonymous “angel donor” recently gave $1 million to the project for new roofing and sprinkler systems in Building 1. 

“Once people see the forward-facing work, the parking lots and the buildings opening, the money and interest starts coming in,” Bergamo said. “If you build it, they will come.”

Martelli agreed, and said he’s fielded numerous calls from prospective tenants interested in the building.

“People want to be here, they’re looking for space in the buildings.”

Sweet Claude’s is open 7 days a week from noon to 9 p.m. 

Contact Hanna at

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