By TAYLOR HARTZ
A crowd of nearly 50 gathered outside the town’s newest eatery, Smashburger, for a ribbon cutting on Wednesday, as a line of early customers wrapped around the side. After all, the first 50 burger lovers to be through the doors during the June 22 opening day festivities earned free milkshakes for the year with a purchase of any meal.
The burger joint’s menu offers a variety of gourmet burgers and chicken sandwiches, including a “build your own” option, along with sweet potato fries, fried pickles, salads, sides, and a long list of Haagen Daz ice cream milkshakes.
Anthony Bottiglieri and Matt Geffkem were the first two in line, waiting for 12 hours to try a Smashburger. The two Southington natives arrived at midnight and camped out to be one of the first to take part in the opening event. The first order was placed by Bottiglieri—a beef burger with bacon, barbecue sauce, and a fried egg.
The franchise is owned by the Mohegan Tribe, under Cheif Lynn Molerba, who cut the ribbon on opening day alongside other members of the tribal council, Southington Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Liz Hyatt, and state representatives David Zoni (D), Rob Sampson (R), and Joe Markley (R).
Before opening their doors to the public at noon, Smashburger hosted Southington Chamber of Commerce members for food and drink samples and a preview of the newest eatery to join the chamber. Samples included their local special, “The Husky.”
“It’s not just about selling burgers, it’s about partnering with the community,” said Hyatt. The tribe focuses on community outreach and hosts cultural events with schools and social groups.
“We’re not just a business,” said Molerba. “We’ve been a tribe for a long time, and our business is very personal for us.”
Justin Kobyloc, a member of the opening team, said he was excited to join the Southington community. Kobyloc said they have opened seven restaurants since last August, and the business has plans to open up to 20 more in the coming years. The Queen Street location added 40 new jobs.
“We’re growing every day,” said Kobyloc.
Molerba said they like their restaurants to serve as a way for the tribe to be involved in the community, and “a way to make sure everyone prospers in our state economy.”
“We’re very excited that you’re jumping in and getting active already in the community,” said Hyatt, “We’re looking forward to a great partnership.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Hartz, email her at THartz@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by TAMMI NAUDUS
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