Another Westport Closing: This Time It’s Chef’s Table

For nearly 70 decades, Christie’s Country Store served the Cross Highway/Bayberry Lane neighborhood well.

It went through a couple of changes after Christie Masiello and her nephew Don Masiello sold the store — including, very briefly, a dry cleaner. But when John and Renee Hooper bought it in 2009, they quickly brought back the comfy, community gathering place vibe.

They ran it that way for nearly a decade — adding, among other things, burritos, prepared foods, Frosty Bear ice cream and a Sunday morning farmers’ market.

The building is a non-conforming use, in a residential neighborhood. Zoned as a retail food establishment, it can operate as a takeout deli, with limited seating indoors.

The Hoopers wanted to offer brunch in the winter by the fire, and on the porch in the summer, plus a limited dinner menu. But state regulations prohibit expanding the septic system — a prerequisite for the changes — so last December, after 9 years, the couple closed Christie’s.

The classic front porch.

The good news: Chef’s Table took over. Rich Herzfeld — who opened his first store under that name in 1995, at what is now Aux Delices on Church Lane, before moving to Fairfield — added Cross Highway to his menu.

He opened April 1 of last year. Today came the stunning news: He’s closing January 15.

Chef’s Table was here less than 10 months.

It’s a tough location. There’s not a lot of traffic — at least, not a lot that stops for premium sandwiches, soups and a salad bar.

As much as the neighborhood loves it, they don’t always support it. Students from nearby Bedford Middle School and Staples High love it too, but they’re not high-margin customers.

Middle schoolers hang out in 2015– near a menorah, moose and reindeer.

Rich says, “Very simply, the location didn’t work out for us. We appreciate the folks who have supported us. We hope to see them at our Fairfield location. Many of our crew will come back to Fairfield with me.”

Tim Purcell owns both the store and the adjacent auto repair business. He is already negotiating with a new tenant to replace Chef’s Table.

It’s a food service. Not a dry cleaner.

18 responses to “Another Westport Closing: This Time It’s Chef’s Table

  1. Elissa Moses

    Will be sorry to see them go. Glad that Tim Purcell is looking into other food options. Wishing Rick the best of luck.

  2. Tom Kashetta

    I think it is absolutely ridiculous that the town won’t allow the owner of this property to upgrade the existing septic system . This would allow him to develop the property into something he can make a profit with. With all the vacant stores in town you would think the town would jump through hoops to help all business owners. The business climate in this state and town is terrible.

  3. Tom, as the story says, it was the state — not the town — that has septic regulations that could not be worked around. In fact, the link in the story above includes this quote:

    “Local officials were great,” John says. “They tried to work with us. But state laws prohibit expanding the septic system.”

    The town was very helpful, but could not override state regulations.

  4. Tom Kashetta

    Thank you for making that clear.

  5. Jeffrey Launiere

    I have such great memories at Christie’s Country Store. Growing up on Bayberry Lane from the time I was born in 1957 I remember all the times talking to Christie, Don, Ken, and especially remember all the times I met my grandfather Leslie Mills there. He would buy me candy each time. Those days are just fond memories now, but I will never forget the good old days.

  6. What a bummer. They had a great operation. in every way. The e food was great, vibe great . Gonna miss them. Seems like when i went i couldn’teven find a parking place.
    We’ve been going to Christie’s for ever. Hope the new team lives up to the past.

  7. Kim Crowther Manning

    Hello Joey’s?

  8. Edward Cribari

    Joey’s? my wife and I enjoyed going to The Chef’s Table for breakfast, a good vibe, relaxing, good food,sorry to see it go, will go back to the Fairfield Chef’s Table,,,Joey’s ?, don’t feel like paying over $3.00 for a gatorade that cost them 50cents, ever wonder why the halfway house at Longshore failed,ask the golfers….

  9. Arthur Habighorst

    Typo in “70 decades” I would imagine 🙂

  10. Tim Purcell has been servicing my car and my wife’s car now for many years, and we love nothing better than sitting around the little restaurant – whoever’s running it – enjoying coffee and chatting with people while our car is up on the rack. Usually Tim or John come over personally to let us know when the work is done. They sit with us for a while if they have the time and then we go over to the cozy little office next door and settle up. Small pleasures like this are at least part of what community is all about – like hot dogs at Joey’s – and they seem increasingly relegated to the stuff of memory in our town.

    I’d like to give state regulators the benefit of the doubt and assume there’s a compelling reason for them to deny the needed septic system expansion here. However, I’m finding this hard. There are many reasons why our Connecticut economy is in such dismal shape right now, but over-regulation is surely among them. I’m not an environmental engineer, so maybe someone could explain to me what the rationale is for denying this permit?

    It’s good to know that Tim is negotiating for a new tenant, but with two operators forced to close in such a short time, this is obviously going to be easier said than done. I live right down the road from the property, and I fear it turning into another one of our local dead zones.

  11. You are correct about “over regulation”…
    This just out today:
    Connecticut – “the regulatory climate and fiscal health rank among the worst in the nation”
    Of course, Connecticut will continue to elect the same people into office….so obviously, it’s what Connecticut wants and will continue to get.

  12. Audrey Doniger

    Hate to see this go the way of all the other eateries that are dear to the heart of Westporters…maybe the wonderful couple who took over “Elvira’s” could rescue rescue Christie’s?…and a big hello to Tim and John!

  13. Too bad. They did a really good job with the sandwiches. It’s tough to come up with a formula that works in a low-traffic location and with limited interior space. I agree that serving brunch is a good idea; I wonder what exactly is the state reg. it ran up against. I cannot imagine that the septic burden of such a tiny restaurant would be any greater than that of the Daybreak Nursery development, approved with septic, for eight 2-BR homes on a lot that isn’t that much larger than the Christie’s property.

  14. Jennie G Pickering

    it was a grocery store when Christie was there – maybe it should return to this type of establishment

  15. Gosh, so may loses in one year – so sad. I loved this place. I hope it stays a food establishment. Can’t find them like that around here any longer.

  16. Seth Goltzer

    Sorry they couldn’t make a go of it, BUT, when I first went there , it was very disorganized, small portions at high prices and pre-made food most of the time. I think every person who thinks of opening a restaurant should watch 10 episodes of Restaurant Impossible and Bar Rescue. It’s amazing how many places make really basic mistakes in layout and menus, can anyone remember The Blue Parrot? Rest my Case.

  17. So sorry to hear this. We live around the corner and have come to rely on Rich’s great food and great staff since he opened- the same as I did when our office was very close to the Fairfield location. Rich has done the best job there yet for decades and should be congratulated. Seems odd that the state could not find a creative exception or other accommodation for this location.