BRISTOL - Every community goes through cycles of change, and Bristol seems to be growing again and attracting young families who want to live here, according to some city residents.
“The City of Bristol has a lot to offer,” said Cindy Bombard, president/ CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce. “We have a great school system, and there are a lot of things to do within the parks, at the Bristol Boys & Girls Club. There are really great jobs in the area.”
“Sometimes you need to just take your time to figure out what will work best instead of throwing something in there and hoping it works,” Bombard said, referring to the construction for Bristol Hospital’s new ambulatory care center in the long vacant Centre Square downtown.
Between the hospital, the Biker’s Edge shop in the old Bristol Press building, and the new Main Street Pint & Plate restaurant opening where Barley Vine was, “it’s a beginning,” she added.
“With the development of the downtown I think you’ll see other things changing,” she said. “You hear negativity so often but bad things can happen anywhere. It’s what you make of it. The people that are coming here to live and work are young professionals. They’re creating an atmosphere for themselves and their families to sustain a great city.”
Tiffany Arpin, business consultant for Webster Bank Merchant Services, is one example of a young professional returning to Bristol to buy a home and raise a family.
Born and raised here, at the age of 25 she moved to south Florida. “I lived there for eight years and, while I enjoyed the sunshine, I was homesick,” she said.
She reconnected on Facebook with an old friend from Bristol Eastern High School on Facebook and made plans to meet up with him on a trip back home for her grandmother’s birthday.
“Two and a half years later Chris and I are now married,” she said. “We have purchased our first home within miles of our families and had our first son.”
They were able to find a house in a good neighborhood near Ivy Drive Elementary School, Arpin said. “We found the most perfect house for us for the kind of money we had and in the right area. We bought our house in August and had our first baby in January, so it worked out very well for us.”
Bristol is also convenient for their jobs. She is a consultant who works all over the area, with the city as one of her territories, while her husband has a moderate commute to Canton.
Hannah Skinner also grew up in Bristol, where she graduated from Bristol Eastern in 2010. Four year later she married her husband Andrew, who was from Pennsylvania. They lived in Massachusetts until last summer when she got a job in Farmington.
“We wanted to move back to Connecticut to be closer to my family,” she said. “We were looking at houses around here and realized you could get the most for your money in Bristol, and so we ended up buying here.”
They now live near Bristol Hospital “We really like it a lot. It’s a nice neighborhood and it feels very quiet,” Skinner said. “We’re close to all the different stores and that came into consideration for us too, it’s very convenient.”
“We just recently tried that new restaurant downtown, Pint & Plate, and we really enjoyed it,” she added.
The Skinners don’t have children yet but she said they did take the quality of the school district into consideration. “I went through the schools and I turned out fine,” she said. “I like the idea of raising kids with the diversity that Bristol has, as opposed to some of the richer towns that don’t have that. I think that could be very beneficial for our children.”
Michael Prentiss is co-chair of Professional Young Visionaries of Tomorrow - PYVOT - a social group of young professionals and entrepreneurs group, operating in partnership with the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and United Way of West Central Connecticut.
He was also born and raised in Bristol, graduating Bristol Central High School in 2006. He said he went to school at Eastern Connecticut State University and then worked in Hartford for about six years, before finding a job downtown at Fradette Carlson Agency, a division of Starkweather & Shepley insurance agency.
Fradette Carlson was seeking to recruit younger people to work at their agency, especially ones who knew that area, he said. “The insurance industry is an aging industry, and it made sense for me to come back home and work four miles from my house.”
He and his wife had already bought a house here near Northeast Middle School. Their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter goes to preschool at St. Joseph School and will go to nearby Ivy Drive.
PYVOT is made up of people mostly between the ages of 21 and 40, from the seven towns represented by the Chambers (Bristol, Burlington, Wolcott, Farmington, Plymouth, and Bloomfield) as well as Southington and a few others, Prentiss explained.
The mission is to draw people back to the towns, he said. “We lose a lot of people to West Hartford, and other similar places where there’s more of a night life. This is more for meeting people than anything else. When people think of networking they think it’s ‘everyone shakes hands and gives out business cards.’ We do more fun, entertainment events, but a lot of people in PYVOT are married, with kids, so we’re not out till midnight. Most of our events end around 8 o’clock so we can get home and tuck our kids into bed.”
PYVOT merged last fall with the Young Professionals of the United Way under the PYVOT name, so it now promotes a lot of volunteering in town too, he said. As of this year, PYVOT has a $50 annual membership fee, with most of its events free for members and charging a small fee for non-members.
With about 50 members, the group’s core demographic is probably ages 26 to 33, he said. “We’re getting involved with Tunxis (Community College) and surrounding schools to mentor the younger generation just getting out of school and looking for job opportunities. We need that younger demographic to be able to carry on.”
People sometimes complain about Bristol on Facebook, but Prentiss said he and his fellow PYVOT members defend the city, saying “we have to figure out what we want Bristol to be, it’s all about what you make of it.”
“The city has been great to us and we’re not looking to go anywhere,” he said.
For more information about the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, visit www.centralctchambers.org . For more information about PYVOT, find them on Facebook.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.