Tag Archives: Andrea Pecoriello

Everyone Onto The Porch!

Westport’s newest hot spot opened its doors yesterday.

And its porch.

From 6:30 a.m. till dark, The Porch at Christie’s was packed.

The Porch at Christie’s co-owner Bill Pecoriello, on the porch.

Neighbors, contractors, middle and high school kids, folks from across town — all headed to the Cross Highway bakery/café/ice cream stand.

They loved the breakfast specials, bowls, paninis, wraps and baked goods. They hung out on the porch (of course), and played cornhole on the grass.

But that’s only part of the story.

“We have 3 pillars: food, community and purpose,” says Bill Pecoriello, who with his wife Andrea own The Porch.

The food speaks for itself: high quality, affordable prices, everything from bagels  and egg sandwiches to crumb cakes, cookies, freshly turkey and roast beef, flatbreads, farro and salmon teriyaki — plus “fun snacks” for kids, like hot pretzels with dipping sauce, pizza pops and Belgian-style waffles.

Not to mention great J. Foster ice cream.

The Porch ice cream stand.

The community part is important too. At a soft opening for nearby residents on Saturday, newcomers from New York met 50-year residents. When the Pecoriellos turned off the lights, people were still socializing on the (of course) porch.

“Commuters, teachers, students, landscapers — everyone is welcome. There’s something for everyone, 7 days a week,” Andrea says. “Hello Friend” signs and t-shirts are everywhere. Half the employees are Staples students.

But “purpose” may be the most important pillar.

The Porch is the Pecoriellos’ second venture into providing opportunities for those who often lack them. Inspired by their 3 children’s volunteer efforts while at Staples High School, they founded Sweet P Bakery. The Norwalk non-profit teaches baking skills to people with disabilities — then hires them.

The Porch purchases baked goods from Sweet P. (The muffins, cinnamon buns and more are made in Norwalk, but finished at the store. The aroma alone will sell dozens a day.)

The bakery features sweet items from Sweet P.

They have also hired a dozen people with physical and developmental disabilities. They work the counter, serve as greeters, and help in other capacities. They’re trained and supervised by an educator.

That’s not all. The Pecoriellos — whose Sweet P bakery has partnered with STAR on a baking class — hope to sell paintings and more, made by STAR clients. And they’ve talked with Westport Book Shop (which also employs people with disabilities) to paint unsold books as decorative items, sell them, and split the profits.

Speaking of paint: You won’t find a more pleasant place to work (or eat) (or hang). The interior of what was most recently Chef’s Table is bright and new. Staples grad Jess Spector painted a mural on the side of the building, where extra chairs invite even more sitting.

The fresh, new Porch interior. (Photos/Dan Woog)

It was hard to tell yesterday who smiled more: the customers, employees or owners.

The Pecoriellos have worked hard for nearly a year to make their vision come true. Andrea described it as the kind of place where, “if I was on vacation somewhere in New England and saw this, I’d say, ‘If this was in Westport, I’d support it every day.'”

They’ve created that vibe, for sure.

And they’ve done much more.

During the soft opening, a man with a special needs son stopped by. He’d moved to Westport for the school system’s opportunities.

Seeing people with special needs greeting customers, and serving them, he thanked the owners.

Then he said, “Today, I see a future for my son.”

PORCH SWINGS: The Porch at Christie’s is open weekdays 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The ice cream stand (adjacent to the store) is open weekdays from 2 to 8 p.m., weekends noon to 8.

A weekend-only brunch menu features babka French toast, pancakes, scrambles and more.

Online ordering is coming soon, through the website (www.theporchatchristies.com). QR codes will be available outside for customers who are still uncomfortable indoors; orders will be brought out.

Westport filmmaker Doug Tirola made a documentary about Sweet P Bakery. It plays on a loop near the baked goods. Another film is in the works, about the long history of the store — founded in 1926 by Christie Masiello.

Andrea and Bill Pecoriello: the visionary Porch owners.

Christie’s Porch

For nearly a century, the front porch of Christie’s Country Store helped anchor its Cross Highway neighborhood.

Christie Masiello and her nephew Don ran the farm stand/market — which opened in 1926 — for almost 7 decades. Several owners followed, serving residents, kids, contractors, and everyone in between.

Since January though — when Chef’s Table closed — the porch has been quiet.

Life returns this spring.

“The Porch at Christie’s” is the name new owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello have chosen for the venerable space. It’s a nod to the storied past, and a welcome addition to the area.

But the couple will serve much more than breakfast, lunch, pastries, soups, salads and prepared meals. By hiring people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, they’ll provide job training, income, social interaction, life skills coaching, and opportunities for personal growth to that often underserved population.

Andrea and Bill Pecoriello.

This is not the Pecoriellos’ first such venture. Last year — inspired by their own 3 children’s volunteer efforts with a boy with disabilities — they founded Sweet P.

Seven students and 2 chefs operated the non-profit bakery out of a Norwalk commercial kitchen until March, when COVID struck.

The chefs stayed through June, making granola for frontline workers and food pantries. In-person, socially distanced baking classes are set to resume this month, along with another class they run sponsored by STAR Lighting the Way.

The Porch at Christie’s will go much further than the bakery (which will supply some of the goods sold there). Interacting with customers, employees can learn front-of-the-house skills.

The Pecoriellos also wanted to do something for Westport — the town they’ve lived in for nearly 26 years. They envision The Porch as a community gathering spot. “We want to be very inclusive,” they say, bringing together the neighborhood and employees.

They’ll do it with breakfast burritos, muffins and granola (and a more “brunch-y” menu on weekends); coffee, tea and smoothies; lunches; prepared meals to go; salads, paninis and flatbreads.

They’ll sell crackers and jams for picnics, gift baskets — and milk, eggs and cheese, products neighbors have long clamored for. Catering will be available too.

The couple is also excited to bring back the former Frosty Bear ice cream hut. They’re scouting out top local dairy farms to supply it, and will run a contest to pick its name.

The Frosty Bear ice cream stand will reopen, with a new name.

The Pecoriellos are searching too for the best Connecticut coffee roasters.

The Porch at Christie’s will be open 7 days a week, starting at 7 a.m. It will be “very COVID-friendly,” the Pecoriellos says, with curbside pick-up and takeout.

They hope to have a permit for lawn seating. Of course, they’ll have tables on the porch (alongside a new ADA-compliant ramp).

The interior will be refurbished with a “modern farmhouse” look. The target date for opening is March.

“We have a great relationship with our landlord, Tim Purcell,” says Bill Pecoriello. “He knows how important this is for the neighborhood.”

That “neighborhood” extends far beyond Cross Highway residents. It includes construction and lawn workers; parents and athletes at Wakeman Field, and students and teachers at Bedford Middle and Staples High School.

The new owners also hope for a partnership with Wakeman Town Farm, a few hundred yards away.

Next spring, the porch at The Porch at Christie’s will again be open.

Bill and Andrea Pecoriello seem to have thought of everything. They’re even buying a generator, to serve the neighborhood during power outages.

“We’ll have ice and everything else. Including WiFi,” they say.

So when the next blizzard passes, or another storm blows away, you can eat, drink and do your work at — and on — The Porch at Christie’s.

(The Pecoriellos want to hear suggestions and ideas. Email info@theporchatchristies.com.)