Astor Place, newly committed to city, promotes New London investment with Thursday event

·3 min read

Jun. 8—NEW LONDON — There's cool stuff going on in the city, and Ralph Belfiglio wants you to know about it.

The founding partner of the video production company Astor Place is so sold on New London that he just bought a building on Bank Street where RE/MAX and Dev's on Bank restaurant once did business.

But what Belfiglio really wants to talk about is the series of videos he shot over the past year called "New London Tales" that will get a free showing at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Garde Arts Center, 325 State St. (donations always welcome). The videos highlight many of the most interesting people and businesses in downtown New London.

"It kind of took on a life of its own," said Belfiglio, a former creative director at Sonalysts in Waterford.

Astor Place, named after a New York City subway station, was hired by the city to promote its "Live, Work, Invest" campaign to encourage more business activity. The idea was to do a "series of videos about individuals doing cool stuff," Belfiglio said.

Among the interviews to be shown are Casey Moran, leader of Spark Makerspace; Mel Foti, a downtown real estate investor who owns the Dewart Building on State Street; Adrian Vega, a hair salon owner; Rich Martin, who owns The Telegraph record store; Frank Marchany, who started The Famous New London clothing brand and owns The Annex on Bank Street; George Potts, a former New London police officer who started a metal detecting business; Cathy Fosnot, a downtown art gallery owner; Mia Mhoor, a downtown jewelry designer and musician, and Cassius Chaney, an undefeated heavyweight boxer who trains at Whaling City Athletic Club in New London.

The 45-minute video, a compilation of the best moments from the "Live, Work, Invest" social media campaign, is the centerpiece of an event that will start at 5:30 p.m. with a social hour. After the screening, Mayor Michael Passero will say a few words about investing in downtown.

Belfiglio said he loved doing the videos because they show the diversity and spirit of New London, a place he fell in love with, though some initially doubted he could make a living here. Astor Place has now been in the city for a decade, with a client base that takes him far afield — Ontario, Virginia, Texas, Detroit and Seattle being just a few of the more recent trips he's embarked on, often for national brands such as Barefoot Spas.

"For some reason, it just grabbed onto me," he said. "There's something about New London that will always grab you back here."

Belfiglio had been renting space on State Street for years, but a recent hike in rates spurred him to look for a building to buy, he said. So when the building at 461-463 Bank St. became available, he found the price affordable — about the same amount for a mortgage as he had been paying in rent — and provided about five times the space that he previously had, spread over three floors.

"Business has been great," he said. "It was time to buy something. I needed to expand. I needed a studio."

As a bonus, the building includes a space formerly occupied by Bean & Leaf and Dev's that Belfiglio is renovating with the intention of running as a restaurant. He still is working out the details, he said, but the site next to Columbus Circle is located near some new apartment buildings that are either in the works or already open.

"The neighborhood is happy we're here," Belfiglio said. "This whole section is rejuvenating. It's nice to see some life down here."