By Tom Aucherlonie • Photos by Todd Shapera
If you speak with local stakeholders, you will hear that Armonk Square has brought change for the better to downtown Armonk.
Residents and merchants both recount that, since its opening, Armonk Square has attracted greater local and out-of-town traffic; that more people have been coming and staying in this newly revitalized downtown retail center.
The three-building development is located in the middle of downtown. It includes two comparatively tall structures that face Main Street (Route 128), with various shops, 10 apartment units and a pedestrian plaza in the middle. A third building, which includes a DeCicco’s grocery store and the Fortina restaurant, faces Maple Avenue.
The buildings share a common parking lot, which is also meant for downtown shopping outside of the complex. As with space on surrounding streets, parking in the lot is free.
The development, which began opening last June, is the work of a local trio: brothers Dominick and John Dioguardi, and Alan Zaretsky.
Giving a tour of the site and explaining details of the project for this story, Dominick Dioguardi, a 29-year resident of Armonk, talked about the property’s long history. The site, which included vacant land, had been “on the town’s planning (board) to be something for over 30 years,” he said. Prior to the trio’s involvement, several other developers were linked with the site and came up with various proposals. The current team was close to developing an earlier iteration with a different configuration–tenants were already set but the project was halted due to the recession of 2008.
What ultimately got approved and built came after the departure of another retailer. Dioguardi discussed the subsequent loss of A&P, which was located nearby and will be replaced with a CVS, and he explained that many people considered that having a market in the middle of town would be advantageous.
Construction took approximately one year, and the first to open were DeCicco’s and Fortina in June, according to Dioguardi. Retailers in the other two buildings have mostly opened. The only empty storefront will soon be home to the Peachwave frozen yogurt shop, which Dioguardi anticipates opening this May.
Neil Lesher, owner of Bowls Handcrafted Salads & Soups, is among the new merchants. A resident of the Mount Pleasant section of the Byram Hills school district, Lesher has a history of business ownership and wanted to continue. He called the place “conducive to walking and shopping” and said it is a “really upscale terrific spot for people to enjoy their time alone and with their families.”
John Nealon, co-owner of Fortina–he said it has “straightforward Italian food” and talked about its beer and wine–felt that business has so far been great. He also noted that the community has been supportive.
Armonk Square not only includes new merchants, but is also a new home to those already well-established in town. These include Tazza Cafe, Lilies & Lace, jewelry store Susan Blake, and Dry Cleaning by Fredericks.
Susan Blake, the owner of her eponymous store, was asked about the place’s impact on Armonk. She called it “uplifting,” and also noted she has had new customers from Armonk.
Skip Beitzel, who has owned the Hickory & Tweed ski shop for 25 years–the store has been in business for more than five decades and is adjacent to Armonk Square–thinks there are more people walking on Main Street as a result of the new face of downtown. He also said that it gives Armonk more reason for being seen as a shopping locale.
Neal Schwartz, who is president of the Armonk Chamber of Commerce and owns the Tutoring Club, called Armonk Square a “net plus” and feels it has brought life to town. Schwartz agrees that more people from outside of town are coming. He also feels that the downtown is more connected. Asked about traffic, Schwartz said there is a “little bit more,” but added that it seems to regulate itself.” Regarding the arrival of DeCicco’s, he agrees that it has not only filled the void left by A&P, but added to residents’ desire for more of a specialty shop.
North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro is also among those who feel there has been an impact. Based on his own experience and feedback, he agrees that more people from out of town have been coming, along with more residents staying.
Tom Auchterlonie, originally from northern Westchester, is a freelance journalist and the former local editor of Chappaqua-Mount Kisco Patch.