Cafe fare: Matters of taste not all literary at Darien Library
The Darien Library has long offered patrons an array of services and products, but now homemade sandwiches, cakes and pies are part of the diverse catalogue.
Since taking over the Frosty Bear Cafe in June, John Martin has put his brand on the food and drink available to visitors just inside the library's main entrance. With the help of his family, he's not only offering a range of snack items, but he's made the cafe a favorite spot for people to stop for lunch.
"Do you have the chili today?" asked a recent customer who finds the cafe fare a regular treat.
"The convenience is fantastic. The food is even better," said Alan Gray, the library director. "The staff loves to get their food here."
"We love the fact that he is really so much a part of the library," he said. "We pride ourselves on great customer service and he matches that with the cafe."
Martin, who lives in Trumbull, has a background in graphic design. During a slowdown in business, he decided to try to find something part-time to keep busy.
"I was looking for a small business to take on," he said, having found an ad on Craigslist for a summertime ice cream stand in Westport. That's when he took over the Frosty Bear Ice Cream Gazebo in Westport, next to Christie's Country Store.
Looking to fill winter months, Martin began managing what was then called Uncle's Brain Food Cafe at the library three years ago, operated by the owner of Uncle's Deli downtown in Darien. "In June of this year he decided he was going to let it go, and I decided to take it over," Martin said.
"People already knew me, so it was kind of an easy transition," he said.
In the interim, Martin and his family opened a year-round Frosty Bear Ice Cream Shoppe in Monroe, where ice cream is made on the premises. Some special treats are even brought down to Darien and featured there.
Not having a deli behind the business, he said, "I ended up making my own sandwiches. Now people seem to really respond to them. I think it has increased business in that sense."
Homemade chicken salad, egg salad, turkey and avocado are among the sandwiches that Martin has created, served on pretzel rolls, whole grain bread and more. Thanks to his wife and daughter, homemade cakes and pies are also on the menu, along with a range of Boar's Head products, including chili and soup.
"The soups are perfect in this cold weather," said Abby Sesselberg, reader advisor at the library. "It's a nice addition. He's really trying new things and it's a great service."
"I've always liked the people here," Martin said. "The staff is really nice. And it's a really good setting. There's a lot of foot traffic that can really support the cafe."
"John is so friendly and so nice," said Ann McCarty. "We love him. He's really added a lot to the library."
The cafe at the Darien Library is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and along with selling popcorn for the Friday night movies, follows the library's weekend hours.