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Aquila’s Nest Vineyards Recognized As SBA Connecticut’s Manufacturer Of The Year



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Aquila’s Nest Vineyards in Newtown celebrated being recognized by the Small Business Administration as Connecticut’s Small Manufacturer of the Year in a recognition ceremony on Friday, April 26. The event was held on location at the experience-focused vineyard, winery, and event venue.

Friends, family members, and state and local officials came to congratulate Aquila’s Nest owners Neviana Zhgaba and Ardian Llomi for overcoming insurmountable odds in their business journey and achieving their lifelong dream of planting a vineyard.

US SBA District Director Catherine Marx was joined by State Senator Tony Hwang, State Representatives Mitch Bolinsky (R-106) and Martin Foncello (R-107), First Selectman Jeff Capeci, Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce President and CEO P.J. Prunty, among several other officials, in speaking at the ceremony and highlighting the achievements of Zhgaba and Llomi.

“Thank you so much everyone for being here. Each and every one of you is so special to us, and we appreciate you taking your time to share this moment with us,” Zhgaba said.

This recognition came ahead of this year’s National Small Business Week from April 28 to May 4, which highlights the impact of entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the country.

Aquila’s Nest, which opened in October 2020, was recognized “for their exponential growth in sales, their commitment to community, and their perseverance in overcoming obstacles presented by the COVID pandemic.”

“That is an incredible honor and accomplishment,” Hwang said. “I think it’s important to note that these are immigrants who have come to this country to pursue the American dream. And their incredible resiliency and commitment to start a business at the beginning of COVID reflects the incredible initiative of immigrants who have contributed greatly to this country.”

Both Albanian immigrants, Zhgaba and Llomi had always dreamed of owning farmland, planting a vineyard, and operating a small winery all their own. Zhgaba describes their story as one of “perseverance,” as they did not have employees in the beginning to help them plant vines for the vineyard. They had to rely on themselves to initially develop the property.

Zhgaba notes that the first year was especially difficult, between raising a family and watching her children grow up to dealing with the loss of her father, who was one of their biggest supporters. Then when they were ready to open Aquila’s Nest, after years of planting the vines, cleaning the property, and constructing the building, the COVID pandemic hit.

“It became another roadblock in the way, but we kind of took that and fit it into what the community needed,” Zhgaba said. “So we partnered with local businesses, woman-owned businesses especially, who needed to host events. And then we enabled the outside fire pits so the community could gather safely. The vision just grew from there.”

The building on the property reflects their journey, with a corner decorated with traces of their Albanian heritage and a white poster hanging above the bar that reads “create a vision so clear that all your fears become irrelevant.” Zhgaba notes that it is their perseverance and the community, from their family, friends, staff, and event partners, that helped them get to where they are today.

“Small businesses are the heartbeat of America, the heartbeat of Connecticut, and especially the heartbeat of Newtown,” Bolinsky said. “I can’t think of anything better for our hometown than to have a hometown family running a small, woman-owned business right here in Newtown.”

Since their opening in 2020, Aquila’s Nest has partnered with over 100 locally owned businesses, 80 plus of them being women-owned businesses, to create local wine, crafts, arts, and food experiences for their guests.

They have also hosted over 700 music performances promoting local musicians and supported 200 plus local nonprofits and charitable organizations, with over $100,000 in raffle certificate value experiences, donations, and fundraiser sponsorships.

“We don’t just bottle wine, we bottle experiences,” Zhgaba said. “And we hope throughout the past three years, you’ve experienced the community feeling that we’ve aimed to bring to this space since day one.”


Reporter Jenna Visca can be reached at jenna@thebee.com.

Aquila’s Nest Vineyard owners Neviana Zhgaba (front, fourth from left) and Ardian Llomi (front, fourth from right) celebrated their business being named Connecticut’s Small Manufacturer of the Year by the Small Business Administration in a recognition ceremony on Friday, April 26. They were joined in the ceremony by a number of family, friends, and local and state officials. —Bee Photo, Visca
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