Springfield Republican’s Chicopee Plus, July 7, 2004


REVIVAL OF DELI A LABOR OF LOVE

 

By CAROL MURPHY cmurphy@repub.com

 

CHICOPEE - When Pamella A. and Ronald Bonafilia purchased the popular Fairview Deli on Fairview Avenue, not only were they buying a prosperous business and historic local landmark, but continuing the family legacy.

 

It is Pam Bonafilia's maternal great grandfather, Jacob Sitnik, who started a small neighborhood grocery business, called J. J/Sitnik and Sons Inc. at that location in the early 1900s.


Their hopes of owning the deli were dashed twice before when it was for sale. "This is the third time we've tried to buy it," said a beaming Pam Bonafilia. "I guess you can say the third time's the charm."

 

Neither she, a former office manager, nor her husband, a production supervisor for a publishing company in Ludlow, has restaurant experience, but something told them it was the right move. They had watched the progression of owners, and this last time when they saw the "for sale" sign, they jumped on it.

 

"Actually, I know the lady who owned it, and we would go to the Collegian Court (restaurant) and see her, so we decided this was going to be it," Bonafilia said. "It feels right. It feels like we've done the right thing.

 

What she likes best about the family's new venture is not having a long commute to work every morning. Bonafilia, her husband, and their daughter Kate, 13, live four houses down from the deli. Kate works at the deli, too.

 

The deli location is surrounded in family history. In fact, not only did the Sitnik family, which included nine children, own and run the prosperous neighborhood grocery on that site, but at that time, the family also owned much of the land on Fairview Avenue. At the deli, on the corner, is Louise Avenue, the street named after a daughter of the Sitniks who died at a young age. And, Sitnik Avenue is just one street up from the deli.

The home next door to the deli is the Sitnik' homestead, where Bonafilia's maternal great-grandfather and family lived when they ran the original store. The next generation, her maternal grandparents, owned 245-247 Fairview Ave., just a short way up the street where they opened the original location of the Kozikowski Funeral Home. Bonafilia said the funeral parlor was on the first floor and her grandparents lived on the second floor.

 

When Bonafilia was born, her parents built a house at 235 Fairview Ave., where the Bonafilias now live.

 

For them, the neighborhood holds special meaning, as do the neighbors, who Bonafilia said have been very supportive since they re-opened the deli June 11.


Formerly owned and operated by the partnership of Eugene P. Kirejczyk and Collegiate Court owner Dorothy E. Szpara of Chicopee, who own Babci's Specialty Foods Inc., the deli still provides space to employees who make homemade pierogis, half-moon shaped stuffed dumplings, for Babci's foods.

 

Slowly, the Bonafilias are restocking the store with inventory, and they will be adding convenience items.

 

"I think we're doing well so far," said Pam Bonafilia. The deli counter is again featuring meats cut to order, as well as homemade potato and macaroni salads and coleslaw.

 

In the front corner is a counter where the couple keeps a pot filled with fresh coffee for the morning customers. A newspaper rack features daily newspapers.

 

Ronald Bonafilia said operating a deli is a new experience for him, but he's excited about its prospects for success. "Our goal is to run it like it used to be run, and it's getting there. We've got the ice cream going, and we've been doing good with the hot dogs" he said.

 


 

Chicopee Register, August 8, 2004

 

SWEET TREATS A LABOR OF LOVE FOR ICE CREAM STAND OWNERS

 

By Lynn Nash Staff Writer


CHICOPEE - For several Chicopee ice cream stand owners, selling the tasty treat is a new venture.


Many of the people who own ice cream stands in the area have not only recently purchased their businesses, but have little or no prior experience operating a restaurant. However, it may be those fresh perspectives and new ideas that keep the customers coming back, one cone at a time.

 

Gene Wallace bought the former Goodies, on Granby Road last December. Wallace, who worked in the computer business for 25 years before purchasing the stand, now named Mr. Cone. He remodeled the stand, adding a new sign, new counters, new equipment, and new windows. He said customers enjoy watching their food being prepared through the new large windows, something most stands don't have. Wallace said he also likes the busy Granby Road location.

 

"I think it's a great location. It's one of the reasons I bought the stand," he said.

 

Just up the street on Memorial Drive, Yvonne Beaulieu is running her business, Twistys Soft Serve. Beaulieu and her husband opened up the shop about two years ago. It was her husband's idea, she said.
The couple took the building, located at 1271 Memorial Drive, once home to a veterinarian and a flower shop, and "tore [it] open," Beaulieu said. The remodeled facility now includes an air-conditioned seating area inside with public restrooms. There are even booster seats for the kids.

 

Ronald and Pamella Bonafilia are also new to the ice cream business. They reopened Fairview Deli, at 193 Fairview Ave. about seven weeks ago, according to Ronald Bonafilia. The couple wanted to purchase the place for many years, he said.

 

"It used to be my wife's great, great grandfather's store [in the early 1900s]," Ronald Bonafilia said. He said they once sold cold cuts there.

When they bought it, they combined the pierogi business and added a deli and ice cream stand, Bonafilia added.

 

He said pierogis are homemade at the store, noting that they also offer kapusta. Like the other owners, although he doesn't have a lot of experience in the restaurant business, things are going well, said Bonafilia.


"It's fun. I like to deal with the people," he said.

 

On the other side of the city, Lori and David Leduc are continuing their dream which began six years ago when they bought Roger's Place, at 1016 Chicopee St.

 

At the time, the purchase was a new experience for the couple who bought the business, including the name, from former long-time owner Roger Farley.

 

In addition to ice cream, the stand offers homemade strawberry shortcake and fried dough among other things, Lori Leduc said. Leduc said she enjoys the interaction with her customers.


"[I] get to talk to all types of different people," she said.

 

All four places offer the standard soft serve ice cream in many flavors, milk shakes, sundaes, flavored ice slush drinks, drinks and various toppings in addition to other unique menu items.

 

Running an ice cream stand can be hard work, Beaulieu said, pointing out that it is a seven-day-a-week operation.