Let’s clear up the grammar debate right away: Yes, the apostrophe in “Krissys’ Korner” should come after the ‘s.’
After all, this corner of Stratford at 1200 Barnum Avenue — formerly known as Sunnyside: Breakfast and Beyond — is now under the proprietorship of not one Krissy, but two: lifelong Stratford residents and old friends, Krissy Nunno and Kristin Wetmore.
“It was destiny. We have been friends for so long. We’ve known each other for so long,” Nunno said. “It was Bill’s concept of the two of us together, because of our experience and because we know so many people. He said: ‘It can’t fail.”
Bill is Bill Perillo, Nunno’s boyfriend and a Stratford police detective. Not only are Nunno and he dating, but Wetmore and he have been friends since the seventh grade.
This is the dynamic of the new Sunnyside, now Krissys’ Korner. The owners are not just there to sling some hash. They are creating an atmosphere that brings hometown folks together.
“The first couple days, people were talking across the aisle to each other,” Nunno says. “Not just sitting eating their food. That’s what we want. I keep calling it ‘homey.’ Is that the word I want?”
This kind of homey breakfast and lunch place might be familiar to longtime Stratfordites. Wetmore’s parents, Art and Joyce Harney, are the former owners of Gathering on the Green, a Stratford diner that served up food and friendly banter from 1989 to 2000 on Paradise Green. (Hong Kong Café is currently in that space.) Wetmore worked there the duration, as a cook and waitress, running the grill even when she was eight months pregnant.
“You were huge, and so cute!” Nunno remembers.
“I was so happy!” says Wetmore. “I loved cooking in that kitchen!”
After health department testing, wrapping up old jobs, lots of cleaning, painting, organizing, hiring, and ordering, Krissys’ held its “soft” opening Monday, July 29, to a good stream of traffic but little fanfare. Despite good business, the previous owner opted to leave the business in early June due to family demands. Landlord Ray Martin, who knew Perillo and Nunno, contacted his friends when the space became available. Nunno said neither she nor Wetmore was shopping around for a restaurant to run, but the call from Martin seemed serendipitous.
“The landlord, Ray, is a friend of Bill’s. He called us and offered the opportunity. We slept on it and slept on it. Then I thought, ‘You know, I’m not working right now — this is perfect.’ And Bill thought of Kris (Wetmore), and her experience with their old place (Gathering) and it just fell into place.”
Martin was thrilled to offer the established business to people who had the experience to run it the right way. “It was an amazing business opportunity. I thought of them right away. There isn’t a person in town who doesn’t know these two. It’s a great location, and I’m so happy to help them start their lives as their own boss. It’s a home run.”
Regular Stratford diners will likely recognize at least one of these restaurant veterans. Nunno, who graduated from Stratford High, started her serving career at 15 at Marnick’s. She then moved to Paradise Pizza, then helped open Knapp’s Landing, where she worked for 16 years. She was working at the Sitting Duck when the Sunnyside opportunity came up.
Wetmore, a Bunnell graduate, has been in the food business her entire career. She started out in the Stop & Shop Bakery, then donned those dire houndstooth polyester jumpsuits to take on the crowds at Friendly’s. After helping to run Gathering for 11 years, she moved to Knapp’s Landing for a few years. Those were the years Wetmore and Nunno spent together, though they crossed paths many times over the years. Wetmore left Knapp’s and moved to Outrigger’s, where she served and bartended for 13 years.
The pair agree they have complementary skills: Wetmore has more back-of-the-house experience, putting together the orders and planning the food. They both enjoy serving and working with the guests, but Nunno excels at handling the phone and managing the service staff.
“It was fun hiring,” she said. “We went for people who are similar to us in work ethic and personality, too. They have fun and get the job done. They joke around with the people as friends, not just as customers.”
Nunno and Wetmore spread the word about their new venture via Facebook and through friends, yet customer traffic in the cheery, yellow café has been more than steady.
“It has been busy nearly every single day,” Wetmore said. “And the support system from friends and family has been beyond words,” Nunno added. “Everyone has been so patient, especially with me being tired and crabby. I will start a sentence and can’t remember what I was going to say.”
The women agree that although they are used to long days and non-stop work at their previous jobs, the transition to managing the establishment has come with a steep learning curve.
“It’s exhausting,” Nunno says. “I guess we got to a place at our old jobs where we knew exactly what we were doing, so the work was fairly automatic. This” she gestures around at the big A-frame room with huge windows and wooden beams “requires so much more thinking. My brain is just mush at the end of the day.”
The owners offer good, simple food and fast service. But they say the ultimate goal is to serve up that happy, relaxed feeling they both remember as the perennial special of the day at Gathering.
“We want to be the non-alcoholic Cheers,” Nunno says. “We want to greet everybody like we know them. And even if we don’t know their name today, we hope that if they come in three weeks from now, by then, we will know their name.”
Krissys’ is open seven days a week, 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.