A former island favorite for breakfast opens in North Stonington
North Stonington — In opening the breakfast spot Jake’s last weekend, Carl and Shaun Stevenson are building on two existing customer bases: those who frequented the eatery when it was Goodies, and visitors to the original Jake’s on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Falling into the latter group, Shaun said, were longtime customers who stopped by on Monday while driving from Cape Cod to New Jersey. They each ordered corned beef hash, a Jake’s specialty that is slow-roasted for 13 hours, and got five orders to go.
The Stevensons also have included on their menu items, such as biscuits and gravy, that were popular at Goodies, which Cheryl Pelchat operated until the end of October.
It’s been a long journey from St. John to Norwich-Westerly Road for the Stevensons, with business and personal decisions impacted by a hurricane and a desire to be close to family.
Carl grew up in Manchester while Shaun is from California, and they met in St. John, where each had moved about two decades ago. They were running a bar together before their son, Jake, was born 11 years ago. Feeling that running a bar wasn’t conducive to having children, the Stevensons instead decided to open a diner.
But 10 years later, in September 2017, Hurricane Irma “just wiped out the entire complex we were in,” Shaun said. When it hit, she was fortunately in California with their two kids — Abby is now 7 — but Carl was still in St. John.
“He was at our house, and the roof ripped off the house, so he rode out the hurricane for five hours in our closet, with the cat,” Shaun explained. With cellphone service only available at one tiny spot in town, the first 24 hours — time spent not knowing — were particularly harrowing for Shaun.
While the loss of items like art projects and sonograms tears at her heart, Shaun noted, “We have our health, and we’re all together; that’s what’s most important. The stuff is just stuff.”
This positivity is reflected in the décor of the new Jake’s, with signs that read “Life is good” and “This is my happy place” and “Live well, laugh often, love much.”
Carl joined his family in California but flew back in December to salvage what he could. His dad planted the seed for the family to move east and reopen Jake’s, so they settled in Colchester in August.
After years of living in St. John, and working in an industry for which holidays are the busiest times, it was a priority for the Stevensons to now be near family. They opted for Carl’s home state, Connecticut, over southern California for the cheaper cost of living and slower pace of life.
To reopen Jake’s, they put feelers out “for a spot that was pretty much ready to go, (a) turnkey restaurant,” Shaun said. It was “serendipitous” for them to find Pelchat, who had been planning to close.
The Stevensons kept the red, green and yellow tables from Goodies, and they kept Pelchat’s four employees.
Jake’s still has its hints of island life, with Bob Marley and Jack Johnson playing on Wednesday morning. But they changed their sign out front to include oak and pine trees instead of palm trees.
The Stevensons plan to stay in Connecticut for the long haul, hoping to provide their kids with some stability.
Shaun also hopes to eventually get permits to sell house-made jellies and baked goods under a different umbrella. Wanting to name something after her second child, she has the perfect idea: Abby’s Pantry.