Entrepreneur contest offers chance to win free retail space in ‘heartbeat’ of South Norwalk

AGW Partners owns 27 buildings in the area and is offering the chance for a potential business to temporarily move in there rent-free. It’s called the OnWashington Entrepreneur Contest.

Marissa Alter

Mar 25, 2024, 11:10 PM

Updated 20 days ago

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Local entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to compete for and win commercial space in on Washington Street in South Norwalk. AGW Partners owns 27 buildings in the area and is offering the chance for a potential business to temporarily move in there rent-free. It’s called the OnWashington Entrepreneur Contest.
“In order to start a retail business, there are traditionally barriers to entry both financial and logistical and really this opportunity is a really unique no-strings attached opportunity to really test your business in a real-life scenario and really see if it has the fit in the community,” explained Carolyn Greenbaum, AGW Partners project manager. “You receive feedback from community members and really have the opportunity to grow your business the way you envision it growing.”
For the third year, the company is welcoming business pitches with the winner getting the keys to an open retail space for a pop-up shop. The length of the lease will depend on the concept.
“We have had submissions ranging everywhere from local cafes and coffees shops to thrifts shops, fitness centers, medical salons and all sorts of diverse businesses,” Greenbaum told News 12. “This contest came to be as a result of AGW SONO Partners’ commitment to the local South Norwalk area and really bringing vibrant and diverse businesses to the street.”
Brad Kerner was the contest's first winner in 2021 with his idea for Eco Evolution, an eco-friendly store, meeting space and cafe. Known as the Eco Dude, Kerner was already living a low waste lifestyle and wanted to spread his love for being eco-friendly.
“The reception by the community was amazing,” Kerner said. “When I won, I got two free months of rent, and it was more of just two free months of trying out whatever I wanted to try out. But it was enough time for me to know that my concept would stick and be welcomed here on Washington Street, so we went for it,” Kerner said.
He signed a five-year lease once the two months was up and left his other job. June 1 will mark three years in business.
“We're very quickly becoming a Norwalk staple,” said Chris Gallardo, manager of Eco Evolution. “Contests like that are opportunities that don't come often that really help just get the ideas and concepts going. Especially now more than ever, a hand is needed for just like places that have a lot of passion, so we're forever grateful for that opportunity.”
Eco Evolution wouldn't be around if not for the contest. Kerner said he can't wait to find out who will get a shot at pursuing their passion this year.
“We don't want a bunch of big box stores on Washington Street. So, it's a way for locals to test out something that they're really passionate about and bring that passion to Washington Street. That's what we're about here. We're a very artistic and edgy kind of street, so I just think it's great they're continuing it, and I'm looking for some really cool neighbors. I have an empty spot right next to me. There's one down the street here, and I'm just hoping that this competition attracts some new energy on the street.”
Pitches are due Friday, March 29. To apply, click here. Greenbaum said interviews will take place the first two weeks of April with a winner announced April 16.


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