NEW BRITAIN - Surrounded by family, friends, the lawyers and the organization who helped set him free, city dignitaries and repeat customers, Mark Schand officially opened his Sweetwater Juice Bar and Deli to a packed house Tuesday.
“I think this is the biggest grand opening I’ve ever attended,” said Mayor Erin Stewart as she cut the ribbon at 60 W. Main St. with Schand.
The moment was beyond sweet for Schand and his wife, Mia, who stood by his side for 27 years while he was imprisoned for a Springfield, Mass., murder he didn’t commit.
He was released four years ago thanks to the work of attorney John Thompson, who was in attendance Tuesday, and members of Centurion Ministries, whose work ultimately led to Schand’s exoneration.
“He’s extraordinary,” said Kate Germond, director of Centurion Ministries, as she navigated the crowd in the restaurant. “Mark is pretty special and so is his wife, Mia. They are the most incredible people. She came to visit him every week for 27 years. That was the most extraordinary exoneration I ever attended, there were 50 family members there. Today is a lot like that.”
Dozens of family members packed the restaurant as Schand helped the staff serve wraps and smoothies.
Stewart said she has already eaten at the juice bar and was pleased with the selection of food and drinks.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” she said.
Nearby, Mia Schand greeted guests.
“We are overwhelmed,” she said. “We have all of our family and friends here. This is like the day Mark came home.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.