FAIRFIELD, CT — The past six months haven’t been easy for many business owners, but one Fairfield couple says it’s “the perfect time” to transform an old convenience store into Reef Shack, a neighborhood market and grill.
The 7-Eleven at 257 Reef Road closed April 1, just weeks after the coronavirus pandemic began to spread in Connecticut. Bridget and Jason Lesizza signed a lease on the property in mid-April and got to work on a design that would preserve the 1923 building and serve their customers.
“This space opened up, we couldn’t turn it down,” Jason said.
With more Fairfielders working from home during the pandemic, there is a renewed sense of community in town, Jason said. The couple, who are self-funding the business venture, hope to see Reef Shack become a neighborhood destination.
“There’s not a better time to have this type of business,” Jason said.
Reef Shack will cater to people looking to shop and dine out while also taking precautions, with outdoor seating, a takeout window, open-air refrigerators with no handles, and a garage-style door to maximize air circulation and minimize contact. Customers can also choose to receive a text or email when their order is ready if they don’t want to wait in-store.
“The way we designed this space is with COVID in mind,” Bridget said.
The business will sell kitchen staples like milk, eggs and bread, as well as more curated items and products sourced from local farms. Customers can order grilled sandwiches such as ribeye, shaved chicken, homemade sausage and the specialty cheese steak, as well as other hot food, including fresh fish and chips, and clams. The bread will be baked fresh daily and diners can order any sandwich as a bowl, with the sandwich filling served over quinoa, brown rice or french fries.
Signature and make-your-own salads will also be on the menu, as will breakfast sandwiches, muffins, bagels and coffee.
Opening an eatery in Fairfield is a labor of love for both Jason, whose father immigrated from Italy and operated a restaurant in Manhattan, and Bridget, who grew up in Fairfield and attended Lauralton Hall in Milford. The couple will use Jason’s father’s recipe for Italian ice sorbet at Reef Shack.
“We are family owned and run,” Bridget said. “… At some point there will always be a member of our extended family there.”
Reef Shack’s décor will be inspired by the beach shacks of Nantucket and Cape Cod, with driftwood and vintage-style fixtures. The business is walking distance from the beach, as well as downtown Fairfield.
The couple hope to open by mid-October. For more information, visit www.reefshackffld.com.