New owner closes on Norwich marina

Article published Nov 2, 2011
By Claire Bessette Day Staff Writer
Norwich – Gary F. Joyal has endured many real estate closings across the country, sitting for hours to hear lawyers tediously explain the meaning of hundreds of pages of legal documents on the table before him.

But Monday’s closing for Joyal Capital Management’s $750,000 purchase of the Marina at American Wharf was different.

The closing occurred on the second anniversary of the death of marina founder Ronald Aliano, which brought a tinge of emotion to the transaction. Representatives of Aliano’s estate, attorney Theodore Phillips and executor Andre Messier, were close friends with the man whose vision and personal investment created the full-service marina at Norwich Harbor, and so they were partisan about the sale.

And the Aliano family offered a personal gift to Joyal of Aliano’s own personal boathouse. “I’m involved in so many different business transactions across the country,” Joyal said Tuesday. “Ted Phillips said to me, ‘Norwich does things differently. We still look you in the face, and shake hands and that’s a contract.’ They welcomed me as part of Norwich.”

Before the ink was dry and the paperwork filed on the city land records Tuesday, Joyal already had been contacted by Mayor Peter Nystrom and others wanting to hear his plans for the landmark facility.

Joyal said he is forced to concentrate on some major immediate issues for the next four to six months before considering future plans. The marina needs about $750,000 in immediate upgrades – equal to the purchase price – some of which were unexpected.

Fuel lines to the boat docks are not functioning and must be dug up and replaced. Electric cables and other utilities to the docks also need upgrades. The entire grounds need landscaping, and the parking lot must be repaved.

Joyal also hopes to convert the restaurant from seasonal to year-round. He plans to have all that work done by spring to reopen as a full-service marina. Then he plans to invite his top-line financial services clients to bring their yachts to the marina for weekend excursions to visit the region’s two casinos and other attractions. He appointed Renee Raymond, director of private client groups for his firm, as the community contact for everything from fundraising for the July 4 fireworks – “My favorite holiday, I’m like a little kid” – to ideas for future marina development

Another issue to be determined, Joyal said, is what the community would like to see at the former miniature golf course adjacent to Howard T. Brown Memorial Park, although the new owner had one immediate suggestion himself.

During his several visits to the marina property, Joyal noticed the former ice cream stand at the mini golf property. Joyal owns Erickson’s Ice Cream in Carver, Mass., and could open the American Wharf satellite stand there.

But July 4 is a big target for the new owner. Joyal not only plans to take part in the city’s traditional fireworks festival, but he hopes to use the event as a sort of grand opening for the marina and to launch the first Connecticut event of his “100 for 100” charitable foundation. The foundation awards $100 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificates to 100 local youths nominated based on financial need, community service, leadership and character. Joyal said he will create an American Wharf button at the foundation website, to collect donations and to accept nominations of youths from the Norwich area for the awards.

“The focus from now to July is to get prepared not only for fireworks but to say ‘We’re back,'” Joyal said.