Kent recovery center’s new cafe to provide jobs to former guests

In front of the future home of Wilson’s by High Watch, which is currently under construction at Kent Barns. From left, Laura Levine, pastry chef; Brendan Miller, vice president of operations at High Watch; Chris Lawrence, executive chef at High Watch; and Bruce Young, baker.

KENT — The late Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, would be proud. Kent’s High Watch Recovery Center is opening a cafe — and is naming it after him. The cafe, called Wilson’s by High Watch, will provide opportunities for former guests and alumni of High Watch to be employed.

Wilson’s by High Watch will open the first week of June and will be at 10 North Main St., in the Kent Barns Complex — next door to House of Books.

The cafe, which is currently under construction, will be open seven days a week, from 6 a.m. through lunch. The menu will feature breakfast sandwiches, housemade rustic breads, biscuits, bagels, and each day will have a specialty bread. There’ll also be an extensive selection of coffees and teas, juices and smoothies.

According to Jason Perillo, vice president of communications at High Watch, the cafe will bring decades of culinary experience to the table.

“Our baker has extensive experience at restaurants throughout Litchfield County, as does our cafe manager who comes to us with many years of management experience,” he said.

The cafe is limited to 15 seats due to zoning limitations, according to Perillo. “So we expect there will be a small eat-in crowd, as well as take out,” he said.

The location the cafe is being built on was unoccupied for “quite a while,” according to Perillo, adding it had previously been called Kent Coffee.

“It was ripped down to the studs and we’re starting from scratch,” he said. “The space itself has been vacant but we’ve been working diligently with the property owner to complete the fit out and turn it into a really special place.”

High Watch is an in-patient residential treatment facility and offers continuing care opportunities as people continue their recovery and sobriety. The High Watch program is founded on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Wilson — who founded AA in the late 1930s — was on High Watch’s original board of directors in 1939.

Perillo said one of the reasons why High Watch is opening the cafe is to provide opportunities for High Watch’s former guests and alumni to work.

“One of the most important things that we can do for people is to get them get back into the workforce,” he said. “So many of our guests come to us with a culinary background, that this is an ideal way to introduce them back into their career.”

High Watch also offers employment opportunities for prior guests and alumni at its farm (Joy Farm) on Carter Road in Kent, “That has worked very well,” Perillo said. “But this cafe will be the first opportunity in downtown Kent of its kind.”

He added the cafe will fit in nicely with the appeal of downtown Kent.

“We want to get it right and we want it to be something that’s very attractive in downtown Kent,” Perillo said. “The downtown itself is beautiful and we want this cafe to compliment what business owners down there are doing right now. So many business owners have really built successful businesses with a very high-end offering, and we want to add to that.”

In regard to possible competition in town, Perillo said downtown Kent “has a number of really beautiful eateries, and one of the things that happens with eateries is the more the merrier. People want variety and we offer that.”

The cafe will have a soft opening in June.

“We’ve been in Kent since 1939 but we’re up here on our little hill and this will be a great opportunity to introduce High Watch and its people to downtown Kent,” Perillo said.

Connecticut Media Group