WARREN — The town of Warren, named for Revolutionary War General Joseph Warren, is one of the oldest villages in the county and also one of the smallest, with a population of roughly 1,500. It is easy to pass right through Warren, since it is surrounded by the larger towns of Kent and Litchfield. Additionally, until recently, there was no center of town to speak of, except for a row of mostly empty shops on Cornwall Road. That has changed since Warren resident John Favreau purchased the buildings and renovated them.
“Basically it was so depressing to drive by and see the empty storefronts,” says Favreau. “I’ve had a home here for 15 years and it’s such a special place. I was determined to bring life back to our little center.”
And he has, bringing the buildings up to code, but retaining their character and history. Warren Town Center, as the complex is now known, consists of three separate buildings; the center one is the home of Warren General Store, which Favreau operates himself, along with his staff. It is the quintessential country store, open seven days a week with an impressive and extensive menu offering creative deli sandwiches, salads, baked goods, delicious coffee and some irresistible desserts. (It is worth the trip just for the curried chicken salad.) There are several tables where one can sit and enjoy the food, and takeout is available as well. There is a section of kitchen and gift items, as well as a selection of packaged food and condiments. Several newspapers are also available. While it is not a huge space, it is cheerful and bright and everyone who works or eats there seems to have a friendly smile.
The first building, erected in 1820, is the oldest of the three and now houses WKND, a clothing and accessories shop. While it began as a pop-up shop, it reopened last May as a permanent one. It is owned by David Asmar, who worked in the fashion industry for many years, and, like Favreau, relocated from New York City to Warren. WKND offers a carefully curated collection for men, women, and children at affordable price points.
“I wanted to create a store that is accessible to everyone — locals as well as weekenders,” Asmar explains. “The love and support shown by the community has been overwhelming.”
The third building in Favreau’s complex is Warren Works, a co-working space. There are three full-time working stations, a conference room and two smaller work spaces.
“There are two 1,500-square foot spaces available above WKND,” says Favreau. “They would be ideal for a fitness studio. I am hoping to find a fitness/yoga instructor to utilize the space.”
Rounding out the Warren Town Center is the Warren Spirits Shop. Originally established in 1977, it is now owned by Richard O’Grady. He and Favreau have coordinated on several events, including a series of wine tastings with food supplied by the Warren General Store.
During this troubling Coronavirus epidemic and isolation period, Warren General Store remains open, providing in-store, curb side and delivery options for its customers, with an extra emphasis on social distancing, cleanliness and sanitization.
“We are doing our best to serve the community and still be responsible and safe,” says Favreau. “Warren Works is fully booked, adhering to required social distancing and carrying on in a thoughtful and caring way. WKND is open by appointment only.”
In addition to seeing to his store and tenants, Favreau tries to focus on his other businesses, which are fashion and marketing related.
“Those have been challenging as they have retail and manufacturing components that need to be addressed,” he explains. “I am hearing firsthand from our factory representative in Italy from one brand and from the front lines of international retail in Europe where another one of my businesses has deep relationships with the top retailers who are all closed. It is truly heartbreaking to read what is happening. I’ve been getting pandemic emails in multiple languages!”
Favreau also serves as Chairman of the Inland Wetlands Commission, addressing the environmental impacts of development in Warren, and as President of the Historical Society where the focus is on stabilizing the condition of the Brick School House and maintaining it as a historic structure in Warren. He is also treasurer of the Northwest CT Arts Council, which is working on a relief fund for artists who are facing dire needs as income sources have evaporated. Many are contract hires or in the hospitality/food service industries when not creating their art. In these challenging days, Favreau’s commitment and positive attitude are admirable and encourage all of us to follow suit.
While this is not a time for sightseeing, it is worth mentioning other attractions in Warren.
The Hopkins Inn, with its scenic views of Lake Waramaug, has welcomed travelers since 1847. Its restaurant is renowned for its contemporary Austrian cuisine but offers many dishes that are distinctly American. In addition to the indoor restaurant there is seating on the flagstone terrace when weather permits. There are also12 guest rooms and two apartments available.
Angevine Farms has been owned and operated by the same family for over 150 years. It is now in the hands of its fifth and sixth generations and offers homemade baked goods, vegetables, orchard products, poultry and eggs, pumpkins, and Christmas trees.
Take a pleasant a stroll or bike ride around Lake Waramaug, which one can still do during these quarantined times. The Warren Historical Society, closed now, is the place to learn more about this unique town that has been home to director Milos Forman, theatrical producer Morton Gottlieb, artist Cleve Gray and his wife writer Francine du Plessix Gray, and prize-wining author Philip Roth.
Also worth looking into as part of the Warren attractions is Strawberry Ridge Vineyards, five picturesque acres overlooking the lake, famous for its Ascot Reserve Chardonnay.
And Warren Woods, a public recreation space and event venue.
For more information, visit www.warrengeneral.com.