But the town doesn't have many places to grab a quick lunch and a fresh cup of joe. "Waterbury has been craving its own coffee shop," says Stowe Street Café owner Nicole Grenier, who plans to open a new café at 29 Stowe Street in June. "It's a need we haven't really filled."
The café will offer an extensive selection of specialty teas brewed to order and custom-roasted coffee from nearby Brave Coffee & Tea.
Food will be ordered at the counter and skew healthy, simple and local. "It's really inspired by what we eat at home and what we try to feed our kids," Grenier says.
Offerings will include juice-bar staples such as fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and protein bowls, as well as baked goods and from-scratch soups, salads and sandwiches — easy bites that can be prepared quickly for families on the go. "We really want to offer fresh, healthy options," Grenier says, "and while we have a tremendous number of great restaurants here in Waterbury, they don't always fit the need for a quick after-school snack on the way to practice."
Sandwiches will be composed of local meats, veggies and cheeses stacked onto Red Hen Baking breads, while salads will come straight from the farmers market and Grenier's home garden. She and many of her employees are avid gardeners, and the café will feature their produce and homemade, value-added products such as sauces, pickles and preserves.
While Grenier hopes to do a robust grab-and-go business, she's also laying down seating for 20 for those seeking a relaxed lunch in-house. On the walls will hang work from local artists, available for sale. "There's a lot of really great [art] out there that not everyone has access to," Grenier says. "We want to make it more accessible, so we're planning to function not so much as a gallery but as a boutique."
Grenier says the café started with a conversation at a Waterbury art pop-up. "Everyone in town gets super excited for the summer arts fest, and we wanted to have a place where that spirit lives year-round." She'll keep the walls clean and neutral so the art can shine, and plans occasionally to host live music on weekends.
Tucked beside Bridgeside Books, the café's downtown space was most recently used as an upholstery shop. Before that, it was home to the Mid-State Bowling Alley, and Grenier has restored the floor so that two of the old lanes are now visible.
"I think this is the first time since the 1960s that people will be able to see those lines on the bowling alley floor," she says. Grenier is excited to revive the shop as a community meeting place, she adds — one that doesn't revolve around alcoholic libations. "'Waterbeery' is a really cute name," she says, "but we also need places that aren't a bar."
The original print version of this article was headlined "Counter Culture"