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Lt. Gov. Wyman Checks Out Norwalk's Ola! Foods, Theater Renovation

Ola! Foods founder Dina Houser (center) speaks with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and State Sen. Bob Duff at her Norwalk business Friday.
Ola! Foods founder Dina Houser (center) speaks with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and State Sen. Bob Duff at her Norwalk business Friday. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel
From left: Developer Frank Farricker talks about his plans for Norwalk's Wall Street Theater with State Rep. Chris Perone, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and State Sen. Bob Duff.
From left: Developer Frank Farricker talks about his plans for Norwalk's Wall Street Theater with State Rep. Chris Perone, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and State Sen. Bob Duff. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel

NORWALK, Conn. – Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman saw two very different sides of Norwalk on her trip to the city Friday. Wyman went from a 5-year-old small business that’s just beginning to grow to a 100-year-old landmark that’s looking for a new start.

Wyman’s visit was designed to show the lieutenant governor two spots in Norwalk that have benefited from state funding. State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk and Darien), state Rep. Chris Perone (D-Norwalk) and Mayor Harry Rilling took Wyman to visit Ola! Foods, a Woodward Avenue company that produces natural granola-based snacks. The group then went to Wall Street, where they met with a group renovating the former Globe Theater.

“Investing in Connecticut’s cities and towns is key to economic revitalization and building thriving communities,” Wyman said. “These projects highlight the state’s commitment to making Connecticut a stronger, better place to work and live.”

Dina and Jason Houser started Ola! Foods in 2009, taking Dina’s family recipe for granola and packaging it for sale. Today, they sell their snacks to more than 3,000 stores and produce four different flavors of snacks.

“We’ve come a long way, but we still have many, many more steps to go,” Dina Houser said. “The grant will definitely help in that endeavor.”

Ola! Foods recently received a $100,000 matching grant from the state’s Small Business Express Program. The influx of funding helped the Housers to buy new equipment, expand their work space and hire new employees.

Wyman and the group later visited the under-construction Wall Street Theater , which is the new name attached to the 100-year-old space formerly known as the Globe Theater, the Norwalk Theater and the Regent. The Wall Street Theater Company plans to restore the building while maintaining the classic façade, turning the theater into a tourism draw for the area.

The company plans to turn the space into a 750-seat live entertainment venue. The theater will maintain the look of its Jazz Age roots but will have modern conveniences such as cameras to live-stream all shows over the Internet, access for the disabled and a LEED-certified “green” construction. Developer Frank Farricker expects to the work to be done in early 2015.

“We are extremely excited to bring to you what we think will be the cornerstone of this neighborhood and a real cultural treasure for the city of Norwalk and Fairfield County,” Farriker said.

The state has so far contributed $1.5 million in grants toward the estimated $7.8 million cost of the renovations. Local politicians expect the renovations to help continue the recovery of the Wall Street area, along with nearby housing and retail developments such as Waypointe and Poko Partners’ Wall Street Place.

“This area is going to shine,” Duff said. “This is going to be the heart and soul of Fairfield County.”