New Norwich marina owner keeping promises, keeping busy

Article published Dec 2,2011
By Claire Bessette Day Staff Writer

Norwich – Gary Joyal completed his purchase of the Marina at American Wharf nearly two months ago and has been busy making good on promises made to city officials and the public that day.

Joyal, chief executive officer of Joyal Capital Management LLC, announced this week that two of those promises have come to fruition, and that a third proposal in the works with Mohegan Sun casino “is even more exciting.” Joyal is meeting with casino officials to reach an agreement that would make the Marina at American Wharf the official marina for Mohegan patrons, with the casino renting boat slips to potentially bring high rollers to dock at Norwich Harbor.

Joyal spent a long day in meetings Dec. 8 at Mohegan Sun with Norwich officials and casino and tribal leaders, he said.

Chuck Bunnell, chief of staff for the Mohegan tribe, said the discussions are preliminary at this point and would not comment on details.

“We had an initial meeting with the new owner,” Bunnell said Friday. “We are excited and encouraged by the meeting. We look forward to his vision for development of the historic marina and breathing revitalization into the waterfront.”

One lengthy session with Norwich officials was devoted to planning for the Norwich July 4 fireworks festival. Joyal agreed to become the lead sponsor, pledging $25,000 to the event that has ballooned into a three-day weekend festival June 29 through July 1 with live bands, a major fireworks display and tours of privately owned mega-yachts that plan to visit the marina during the festival.

Joyal said he will bring his marketing team from Florida to Norwich during the next few weeks to iron out details of a major fundraising campaign to avoid the last-minute effort local business leaders needed last year to get the fireworks display off the ground.

Michael Franklin, who headed last year’s fireworks committee, welcomed Joyal’s partnership as “exciting news” for the festival and “hugely beneficial” to fundraising efforts. Franklin said the goal this year will be to raise $100,000 for the three-day event.

Mayor Peter Nystrom, who arranged the meetings with Mohegan officials, said he, too, was “thrilled” with Joyal’s generous commitment to the fireworks festival.

“They do things the right way,” Nystrom said. “I can’t be more pleased with the members of the Joyal Group, Richard and Gary, and I’m extremely grateful for the time the tribal members gave to us, to sit down and talk. (The Joyal Group) gave a very strong presentation with a partnership theme.”

The fireworks partnership also calls for launching Joyal’s “100 for 100″ charity in Connecticut – a charity that provides $100 gift certificates for sporting goods to needy children. All money raised beyond the needs of the fireworks festival will be donated to “Norwich 100 for 100.”

Joyal already is accepting nominations of youths for the charity through the organization’s website, www.1004100.com, and has received several Norwich nominations already.

The fireworks festival has been a staple summer event in Norwich but was nearly canceled in 2010 after former marina owner and lead sponsor Ronald Aliano died the previous fall.

The Connecticut Tigers arranged to host fireworks at the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium that year, and Franklin gathered local business support to resurrect the harbor fireworks last summer.

Joyal closed on his purchase of the marina on Oct. 31 for $750,000. Work started shortly afterward on renovations needed to open for boaters in the spring. New gas lines are being installed to the docks along with cable TV lines. The parking lot will be repaved and the restaurant renovated.

On Wednesday, Joyal approved architectural drawings for a new building to house an ice cream shop and café at the former Putts Up Dock miniature golf course property adjacent to the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park. Joyal owns Erickson’s Ice Cream on Cape Cod and plans to open Erickson’s Ice Cream and Café at American Wharf in the spring.

He expects to apply for building permits and go out to bid for a construction company soon for that project.

Joyal credited Nystrom for helping organize the meetings at Mohegan Sun and for encouraging him to pursue the ice cream shop plans at Brown Park.

“The mayor and the city officials are just saying ‘what can we do to help you out,’” Joyal said. “People have to know, this is not normal in other cities.”