By: Patrick Ronan On: 06:25PM / Wednesday May 05, 2010
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — John LeVardi worked the cash register before rushing out the door for a delivery. Jason Boucher handled a stream of orders while telling his employees that they were doing a good job.
It was a busy lunchtime rush on Wednesday in the newly-opened That's a Wrap location at 60 Spring St., but the store's co-owners, Boucher and LeVardi, had everything under control. The new store, which opened on Tuesday, April 27, isn't the first business endeavor for either man; Boucher owns a That's a Wrap corporate franchise with locations in Pittsfield and Dalton, and LeVardi runs Krispy Cones Soft Serve Ice Cream in Lanesborough.
That's a Wrap, which specializes in sandwiches and wraps, also offers salads, soups, smoothies, a breakfast menu and catering services. Customers can sit down, order to-go or request a delivery.
The eatery distinguishes itself from other sandwich shops with a mission to provide a healthy, fast-food alternative. Judging by its steady flow of customers Wednesday afternoon, the word has spread quickly.
"We have a real good product, so I think that sells itself," LeVardi said.
"We're working to service the people of Williamstown," he added. "It's a beautiful location. It's real nice around here."
Jason Boucher, left, and John LeVardi recently opened their third That's a Wrap chain in Berkshire County, popping up on Spring Street in Williamstown.
Fourteen-year-old Sarah Apkin is a student at Pine Cobble School, which had a half-day on Wednesday. She went straight from school, lacrosse stick and all, to That's a Wrap — her second visit in the eight days since its opening.
"I'm familiar with the [franchise] because my mom went to the one in Pittsfield, and she said it was really good," Apkin said. "So once I found out about this one, I wanted to try it."
As a member of Pine Cobble's lacrosse team, Apkin seeks a diet that matches her athletic lifestyle.
"I had the chicken pesto flatbread," she said. "I think [That's a Wrap] is healthier [than other sandwich shops]. It's more original and it's fresher."
Kate Stephens, a senior at Williams College, was making her first trip to the eatery after hearing positive reviews from her friends. Like Apkin, Stephens was drawn to That's a Wrap because of its focus on freshness. A resident of Spring Street, she was delighted to see a new business in her neighborhood.
"It's good to not have another empty storefront on Spring Street," she said.
Boucher, who also runs the catering service at the North Adams Country Club, has been pleasantly surprised with business thus far, saying that the numbers have doubled their original projections.
"We're new, so we expected to be busy," he said. "But not this busy."
Boucher and LeVardi have interest in expansion and will be looking to open new stores in the Northampton/Amherst and Albany/Saratoga, N.Y., areas.
By: Patrick Ronan On: 09:27PM / Monday May 03, 2010
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Peter Harrison likes to talk almost as much as he likes to cook.
He's the first one to admit it.
"Even the telemarketers are like 'hey, we've got to get going now.' That's how I am," Harrison said. "Even the Jehovah's Witnesses, they're like 'you know what, we've got to go.'"
Harrison, 46, of Pittsfield, is taking his two favorite pastimes — preparing food and socializing — and turning them into his first business venture. If visits from the health and fire inspectors go smoothly this week, he'll open Poppy's Deli on May 11. Located at 240B Main Street in the Colonial Shopping Plaza, the deli fills the space previously held by Angelina's Subs, which was evicted last month after failure to pay its bills.
Peter Harrison is realizing his restaurant dreams with the opening of Poppy's Deli in the Colonial Shopping Plaza.
Harrison will offer a menu similar to Angelina's while adding his own unique touch. He'll expand the deli case with an assortment of salads and casseroles, and he'll sell home-meal replacements such as vegetables and starches, along with breakfast items.
"This is a working man's place. We've got a big parking lot with a lot of trucks coming in," he said. "I want to keep the hamburgers, the hot dogs, steak and cheese. I'll make anybody anything; if I got the ingredients and you ask me for it, I'll make it for you."
Perhaps just as important as fulfilling the customer's hunger, Harrison also wants to make Poppy's a place to engage in lively conversation.
"That'd be another [career] I'd like to have is be an interviewer," he said. "Not like giving job interviews, but to sit behind a desk like [David] Letterman. I get to know everything about everyone.
"As much as I'm here for myself, I'm here to see who's going to come through the door and say hello. I want to be as much a part of the community as possible, where people want to come in and say hello just as much as they want to come in and get a sandwich."
Harrison has been toying with the idea of opening his own business for the last 10 years. His love for the culinary arts was invigorated years back while learning under chef Rico Deluca at the Seven Hills Inn located in Lenox. Harrison has since worked at the Love Dog Cafe and Canyon Ranch, both in Lenox, and at Helen's Place in Williamstown.
Along the way, he has learned all the ins and outs of the restaurant business, which eventually prompted the search for an establishment of his own.
"It doesn't matter where you work, you've always got to be prepared and be ready," Harrison said. "You can feed 1,000 people if you're ready. If you're not ready, it's hard to feed 10. Even to cook for your family, to cook for four people, that's a lot of work."
When Angelina's went out of business in March, Harrison saw a prime location up for grabs. And he's been a welcomed addition to the shopping plaza.
"He's marvelous," Sherri Thompson, owner of Avon, which is located next to Poppy's Deli, said. "He'll be a lot of fun to have next door. I just wish it was open already, so we'd have some good food to eat."
As for the name Poppy's Deli, Harrison said it came from his 6-year-old grandson, Evan, who started calling Harrison "Poppy."
And it will be all Poppy, at least for a while. Harrison will be a one-man staff until he decides that more help is needed.
"I've got all those restaurant owners I used to work for to thank because they left me alone in their restaurants," he said. "I'm confident I can do it."
Poppy's hours of operation will be every Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.