NEWBURYPORT — While Market Square has always bustled with activity, and shops and eateries continue up State Street, it's always been the lower end of the street where pedestrians and tourists gather.
With an array of new businesses opening, that's beginning to change.
In recent years, upper State Street has seen growth. The Port Tavern opened several years ago. Then Taffy's arrived back on the scene.
Eat Cake!, a bakery specializing in cupcakes, opened in May.
And later this fall, a new wine bar — Connor's Cellar — will open in the Brackett Heel building on Prince Place, which is undergoing renovations by its new owner, Stonehaven Realty Development. The firm is also planning to add a glass penthouse on top of the building.
The circa-1850 building is one of the tallest in the downtown. It houses the Port Tavern and sits across Prince Place from the Newburyport Public Library.
As Connor's Cellar owners Leon and Meaghan Gibbs and Meaghan's father Jerry Lynch of Newbury searched for a location, they felt the Brackett Heel building would be ideal.
When they began working on Connor's Cellar in March 2009, they were already seeing "bits of development" on that end of State Street, Meaghan Gibbs said.
As Lynch had just recently retired from Fidelity at that time, she asked her father what his plan was for the next chapter of life, adding, "What do you think of a wine bar?"
With more businesses opening, there's more to attract people to that area of State Street and bring a new vibrancy to that area, she said.
Named after their son Connor, 23 months, the wine bar look will resemble a traditional cellar, the owners say, with concrete floors and exposed brick. The couple also has a 5-month-old daughter.
"The idea is to keep as much of the original character of the building as possible," Meaghan Gibbs said.
For the Gibbses, who spend half the year living in Asia and the other six months in Newbury, the wine bar will offer a variety of wine and beer to sample, an artisan cheese station and a full-scale restaurant.
The wine bar will offer a "comprehensive range" from local wines to wines that haven't been seen in Newburyport, they sid.
The couple has brought "a little bit of everything we've seen in Europe" to create their wine bar, Leon Gibbs said. Leon is originally from New Zealand.
Customers can sit at the bar, small high-top tables or one long communal table, she said, where diners can eat as a large group.
"There will be more of an emphasis on sharing plates," Meaghan Gibbs added. The focus is "pairing wine and cheese in a relaxed atmosphere with affordable price points," she said, in a place where customers can enjoy each other's company.
"And ours," Lynch added.
"It's something a little different than anyplace else in town," Leon Gibbs said.
It is a place the three owners would enjoy going to themselves, Meaghan Gibbs said.
"It's a place to come and converse," she added. With that in mind, there will no loud, live music.
The couple is eyeing a November opening.
"Perfect for red wine," Meaghan said.