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.
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