HOLYOKE — Valentine’s Day was the perfect day to open up new restaurant Camellia’s according to owner Cristina Gonzalez, who told Reminder Publishing she and her children just love the color pink.

“My kids love pink, so that’s the reason I chose pink. We also go to Puerto Rico a lot to visit, and they have a lot of little shops like this out there and I feel like we didn’t have any out here so I felt like we needed something around,” Gonzalez said.

Located at 116 High St., the storefront’s bold pink color stands out in the heart of downtown. Once entered, the pink colors pop through the décor of the 1,524-square-foot restaurant. The café style restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and has sit down dining options as well as a unique bar seating arrangement.

The new restaurant also includes selfie stations for visitors to have the option to snap a photo while grabbing a meal at Camellia’s.

“People are all about taking pictures and social media, so I thought about the selfie stations. People can sit down, have a meal with their friends, family, coworkers and build memories,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she has past experience working in the restaurant industry and said she loves to cook and is happy to have started this venture.

The new restaurant is on the same High Street property owned by Vadim Tulchinsky who is a managing director with property for residential and commercial use on High Street. He told the City Council last year that the plans for the High Street property was a “labor of love” for him and his team as they look to establish the building as an economic anchor in downtown.

“We’re trying to bring back High Street, specifically this kind of stretch of it,” Tulchinsky said at the Camellia’s opening.

The rest of the shared property with Camellia’s is expected to become 19 mixed-income properties in the future thanks to these efforts, project partner William Womeldorf told Reminder Publishing. If anyone is thrown off by windows above the new restaurant currently boarded up still, Womeldorf said the addition of Camellia’s is just the beginning of the building’s transformation.

Tulchinsky added that he, Womeldorf and third partner Alec Bewsee are starting a new organization called the High Street Business Association that aims to bring together business leaders and landlords together in downtown heart of the city.

This organization is partnered with the Greater Holyoke Chamber with the goal of helping create a specific focus on High Street.

“There’s a lot of islands of people who don’t necessarily know each other [on the street]. The Chamber is great, but they cover all of Holyoke. We have specific challenges here on High Street,” Tulchinsky said. “People have been pretty receptive to it. It’s clear that people love it here [High Street] and there’s a lot of energy behind making it better for everybody.”

Community leaders including Mayor Joshua Garcia and Director of Planning and Economic Development Aaron Vega made their way down to Camellia’s for the ribbon cutting and a quick lunch break. Gonzalez said she was very happy with the opening and excited to join Holyoke.

“I feel like Holyoke has welcomed me very well. Everyone has been very welcoming, so I feel very happy to be a part of this community,” Gonzalez said.

tlevakis@thereminder.com | + posts