By Mike Lauterborn
(Appeared in the Fairfield Citizen News 1/21)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
It was the Friday preceding Martin Luther King Day and Fairfield schools were closed. It was just as well as it would keep some traffic off the road and allow town equipment to continue to whittle down and remove mountainous snowbanks that had piled up everywhere. Temps were frigid this particular morning and a cozy windowside table at The Pantry was calling.
Nestled beside Domino’s in a retail plaza at 1580 Post Road in downtown, the market, with its bakery and deli counter, has been serving the area since March 2003. While a destination for convenient pick-up of needed items, purveyor of delectable prepared foods and provider of specialty cakes and pastries, The Pantry has also become a social gathering place. Retirees visit to enjoy a light breakfast, moms and their children will meet up to take five during a busy day of errands and couples will relax and read the paper on weekends.
Manning one of three registers at the front of the market, Jenisha Shrestha, 24, remarked, “People really like how we treat them, the food of course and the friendly, intimate atmosphere. Visitors from out-of-state even ask if we can open a sister market in their area, as they like it so much.”
General Manager Paul Zawadski said there’s a certain formula to the success of the market: quality food without skimping, talented staff and a fair, reasonable price.
“The center of Fairfield is certainly a viable location, too,” Zawadski added. “Our parking lot could be a little bigger but people seem to make it work. Commuters really rely on us – nobody seems to cook in Fairfield anymore.”
Regarding inventory, Zawadski said, “We run the gamut from hard-to-find items like aged balsamic vinegars to everyday staples.”
As to store traffic, he said the deli counters are popular with people who work in town. “The salad bar is a favorite destination and we make pizzas to go. Now we’re adding a rotisserie, which we expect to be popular.”
One of the owners, Thierry LeMeur, had worked for the old Mercurio’s Market, which had been adjacent and served Fairfield for half a century. LeMeur teamed up with Andrew Rolleri, The Pantry’s baker and pastry chef, with the idea to provide gourmet products to the local area. It filled a void left by Mercurio’s.
“Originally, the store was meant to be a place where a chef or cook could come to buy all their needed ingredients,” said Rolleri. “It has evolved beyond that to be a provider of already prepared or ready-to-bake foods.”
At one end of the store, housing the bakery, a long glass display case showed fresh-made bagels, Danish, croissants and a wide array of cookies, tarts and cakes. Opposite, decks of prepared meals and a walk-in refrigerator housing vegetables.
Mid-store, there’s a meats section and then shelf after shelf of canned and packaged food items.
Capping the other end of the store, the salad bar and deli counter.
“This place has stolen my heart,” said Fairfielder Sunnie Chapell. “This is the best fresh food, bakery, etc. Everything is just top quality and the people that work here are so nice. They will deliver when there’s an emergency. I just love coming here.”
Another regular, Fairfielder Kerri Gibbons, said, “I love their butternut squash soup and cinnamon spice tea. I start my day here. It gets me going.”
Mayra Cancho, bakery supervisor, said, “What we make here is always fresh and quality. The same people often come in two or three times a day, they love us so much. But we get new faces and out-of-towners in here too who have heard about us. They like our daily specials. We’re always offering something new.”
On that note, I gathered myself up, stepped back out into the icy environs and planned my next Fairfield foray.