Saugatuck & Southport: Garelick & Herbs expanding on successful recipe
When he moved to Fairfield County from New York City two decades ago, Jason Garelick was caught by surprise by the lack of upscale markets offering prepared foods. While the food lover's native city offered plenty of gourmet store options, this area had less than a handful.
So he and his wife, Paula, who were in their early 20s, decided to open their first Garelick & Herbs store on the Post Road in Westport. Twenty-two years later, they now have additional locations in Greenwich and New Canaan.
And with the recent opening this week of a fourth store on Riverside Avenue in the Saugatuck section of town, the business has achieved an original goal,
"Originally, we were going to open in Saugatuck as our first store, but it didn't work out," Paula said.
"We always liked the (Saugatuck) area but the area is even better now," Jason added of the store in the new Saugatuck Center. "It's even more lively now."
Having a second store on the other side of town will allow customers who only visit every so often to come in more regularly, Paula said.
The store will also, in a sense, replace the original Westport store once they open a brand-new space just over the border the in Southport section of Fairfield. That location will replace the Post Road store in Westport.
"That to us was a dream -- building our own store, starting from scratch," Jason said.
The store will be roughly 1,100 square feet larger than their current Post Road space. Everything from their commissary to their bakery and offices will be moved into the new digs.
"I wanted to have everything under the same roof," Jason said.
But it was the proximity to their first store that appealed the most to the couple. "If someone comes here they will go there because it's one traffic light away," Paula said.
It will offer the opportunity for the couple to expand its retail side by offering more home goods and candles. Jason said one of his favorite things about the store is that the merchandise displays are always moving around the store.
"People wander around," he said.
The new location will also have an outdoor patio and a garden where they hope to grow some of their herbs and vegetables.
"We offer really wonderful freshly made foods for our clients to eat here," Paula said. "We have clients who come and eat our food on a daily basis."
The menu consists of many grains, vegetables, chicken and fish. The market also has kosher meals, gluten-free products and plenty of vegetarian options. "We don't have a lot of red meat," Paula said.
Everything but the bread is made fresh at the store. And each store has its own unique menu every day and caters to the customer base in town. All also have seating so people can eat their prepared meals there.
"All of our stores have seating, but yet it's not restaurant style," Jason said.
Some of the couple's favorite dishes are their shaved kale salad and their tuna with cranberry.
Their clients have varied tastes. Shea Curran, 11, said she is a fan of the fries shaped like smiley faces. She also favors the cucumber salad, her mother, Stacie Curran, added. Her brother, Dylan, prefers the sun-dried pesto pasta.
"They're my favorite for parties, fundraisers, Mother's Day," Stacie said. "I come here for dinner, lunch, coffee. I'm so excited they're building a new store."
The market is a big draw for working mothers, who find it convenient to stop in to buy a fresh meal for their families, Paula said. "We give them that feeling of home-cooked and they don't have to make it themselves," she said.
"The food is fresh and delicious," said Donna Stern of Southport, who said she gravitates toward the salads and breads. "I change it up."
The couple has also gone from doing occasional catering for small parties and events to owning their own venue called Mora Mora, a catering hall in South Norwalk. They are also the exclusive caterer at the Westport Inn.
"When we started out people wanted us to do catering for Jewish holidays, Christmas and other holidays," Jason said. "It just got bigger and bigger. In our first year we would never think we would do catering like we do now."
"We always hoped for it to be successful," Paula added. "We still work six days a week. We really put our hearts and souls into this."
The couple has also turned the business into a family affair, with their 15- and 16-year-old daughters pitching in once in a while.
"We are Garelick & Herbs," Jason added. "There really is no separation between us and the business."
And the couple has no plans to stop. "We do eventually want to be in Westchester," Paula said.
For more information, check www.garelickandherbs.com.