NOANK — Bringing together family ties, community support and a passion for fresh food, Amy Sarcia and Andrew Fine opened No Anchor market at 17 Pearl St. on Saturday.
Sarcia, 49, of Pawcatuck, grew up in Mystic and frequented the locally-beloved Universal Food Store, which previously occupied the space. She is the owner of 2Wives Brick Oven Pizza in New London.
Fine, 39, of Old Mystic, was chef at Mystic Seaport for seven years and later opened Vanity, a restaurant in New Haven. He also ran Coastal Gourmet, a catering company, where Sarcia worked for him, and they became friends.
Sitting at the long, wooden community table near rows of shelves ready to hold merchandise, the duo talked on Tuesday about their journey to opening No Anchor together.
“We both feel so strongly about local food and fresh food and we both always say food is the best medicine,” said Sarcia. “So opening a place where we are not only feeding people, as we have for years in our restaurants, but providing groceries and local produce and meats and seafood for people, we feel very passionately about doing that and doing it well.”
“My role is to lead the way over here,” Fine said. “This opportunity is something I have always dreamed about.”
The market will have both a full grocery and a prepared-foods section with grinders, pizza, fish and chips and daily specials.
“Sometimes you want to come in here and grab a steak and some potatoes and some salad and go home and cook it yourself,” Sarcia said. But other nights you maybe just want to grab some stuffed peppers or a prepared meal that chef Andrew has made and go home and heat it up and sit and relax with a glass of wine and enjoy yourself and not have to cook your own dinner. Andrew and I want to be able to provide for both of those scenarios.”
The neighborhood has sorely needed its own grocery since Sherman’s Market closed in October 2017 after a two-year stint. From 2012 to 2015, Noank Community Market, a co-op, also occupied the space. Before that, Universal Food Store was the neighborhood mainstay from 1947 to 2011.
“I was coming to Universal since I was a little kid,” Sarcia said. “Recently I had heard it was empty and I asked around and got in touch with the landlord, Steve Jones.”
It turned out that Jones had written a book, “Working Thin Waters,” about Sarcia’s great uncle, Lawrence Malloy, and also knew about her great-grandfather, Captain Frank Staplin.
The original building was also constructed by the Noank Shipyard, said Sarcia, pointing to the the wooden ship masts that were used as lally columns throughout the space, and the ship “knee” supports that support the ceiling.
Because of work done by the landlord and the previous tenants, the kitchen and the retail space needed very little updating, said Sarcia.
“We’ve been so fortunate to get this opportunity where it was fully equipped. It’s almost a turnkey operation,” she said. “And, we have close friends and family that we already know and trust to work with us and help us get it off the ground. I just think it’s meant to be.”
Numerous community members came to the store’s open house last Saturday and Sunday just to greet Sarcia and Fine and welcome them to the neighborhood.
“They have all been so welcoming to us,” she said. “We have an idea of what we want the store to be, but we really want to be what the community wants us to be.”
The market hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer and might be reduced in the winter, Sarcia said.
The emphasis will be on providing the freshest food possible, working with local farms, meat producers and seafood purveyors, said Fine.
“I want the customers and the people of Noank to know that they can trust their families’ well-being in our hands because the products they get from here were brought in today and were sold today,” he said. “It is my solemn goal to literally run out of everything every single day on purpose. That’s why this is such a dream of mine — because I can actually get to the farms and I can get that farm to your table in one day. That is fresh food,” he said.