GREENWICH, Conn. -- Whether it’s a running shoe, romantic relationship or new business, sometimes the fit feels just right. Such was the case for Greenwich natives Krista and Mike Pietrafeso when they opened Ada’s Kitchen & Coffee earlier this year.
The business 112 Riverside Ave. in Greenwich opened in February at a space that stood for 58 years as a popular variety shop and candy store. Students from nearby Eastern Middle School frequented the shop for a post-school sugar fix.
“There was a sense of closeness about it,’’ Krista said. “She knew everybody by name. Everybody called Ada ‘The Candy Lady.’ It was just nice that kids could walk there on our own, it gave them a level of independence.”
Mike knew from an early age that he wanted a career in food. “The only things I enjoyed were sports and school,’’ he said. “I was only 5 or 6. I didn’t think I’d make it as a basketball player.”
He worked for Garden Catering in high school, graduated from the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and worked at several restaurants in the region. He started out at Plum Pure Foods in Cos Cob, Bar Rosso and Napa & Company in Stamford and Le Farm in Westport. He also worked for private families in Pound Ridge and Westport.
“Owning my own place was the goal all along,’’ Mike said. “I wanted to go this route and be open for breakfast and lunch. I wanted a cafe concept where I didn’t have to be open at night so I could be with my family.”
When the space at Ada’s became available, Mike sensed immediately it was the right fit. “Just the history of it attracted me,’’ he said. “I knew it was the hub of Riverside. I had been shopping around for 1½ years and it just fell into place.”
Krista also knew immediately that Ada’s would become their business home. “He had five or six business plans prior to this,’’ she said. “None of them made me feel as good as this. I had butterflies when he told me. I couldn’t believe it. It’s such a good fit, I felt like he couldn’t not make it work.”
The couple needed to wait almost 1½ years for the renovations to be completed by Ada’s family, who worked tirelessly to bring the historic building back to its original beauty. “There was definitely some anxiety,’’ Krista said. “That was probably the hardest part. It felt like forever.”
Even though Mike had stable jobs elsewhere, he felt confident opening his own business even in a struggling economy. “I grew up in town, I knew what was here,’’ he said. “I thought this concept was perfect for this location. There’s a train station nearby to attract commuters, and two schools nearby. I just really thought it would work out.”
Krista, who also works full-time for professional services firm, said the couple benefits from having a close circle of family members in Greenwich to help them meet the demands of the business while also tending to two young children. “If we didn’t have them, I would’ve been much more wary about doing this,’’ Krista said. “I had faith in him.”
Krista’s faith appears to have been justified. In an era where nationally recognized coffee shops seemingly open on every block, Ada’s Kitchen + Coffee distinguishes itself by providing fresh, made-to-order homemade products.
“We get the best products we can find and make everything in house,’’ Mike said. “We make our own English muffins. We make everything daily. We try to make everything as fresh and homemade as possible.”
Ada’s offers a morning menu with croissants, muffins, smoothies, eggs, omelets and burritos. The lunch menu features sandwiches, salads and soups that are determined by season. It also offers sweets -- including Ada’s candy -- and an assortment of drinks, including locally roasted artisan coffee from Path Coffee Roasters. It also caters for breakfast and lunch.
Ada’s does not offer indoor seating, however. The structure was built in 1900 and was the original post office in Riverside. “The building is so historic,’’ Mike said. “We’re unable to build a handicapped bathroom, which we would need if we wanted to offer seating. It would enhance it, but it wasn’t going to make or break the deal. I had to let that dream die a couple of weeks into it.”
The Pietrafesos said the community has quickly embraced the shop. For both of them, high school sweethearts with families that have long-time ties to Greenwich, it means the world to them to run a successful business in the town that they love.
“My grandparents and mother immigrated from Italy to live here,’’ Mike said. “Our families all lived on the same block. We have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that are here. It means the world to me to have a business in town. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
For more information, click here to visit the Ada’s Kitchen & Coffee website.
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