If it weren’t for an online dating service, there would be no Cedarhurst Cafe in New Haven’s Ninth Square. In 2009, Match.com brought Teri Bernet and Tom Panzella of Milford together, creating not just a romantic partnership, but a business one as well.
Teri, raised in Connecticut, had a busy work life in Florida and Kentucky, working in the cruise-line industry and then for a custom builder. Her marriage to a chef ended and Teri found herself back in Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Tom, an engineer, took on a new business opportunity in the 1990’s: Donut Express on Woodmont Road in Milford. Dunkin’ Donuts bought it in 1996 and Tom returned to engineering. After another decade or so he got tired of commuting to his engineering job on Long Island, and tried his hand at professional poker.
“Teri told me, ‘You need a real job,'” Tom says, “and I said ‘I have a real job,’ she said ‘No, you need a real job.’ So I said, you find something for us to do and we will buy it and we’ll do it. She found this place,” which was called Greenwell Organic Tea and Coffee at the time.
The two often finish each other’s sentences. “It was a good fit. We fell in love with it. It’s so quaint, the tree and everything. The whole ambiance,” they say together. “We didn’t want to keep the name Greenwell because it was [the previous owners’] last name.” Inside the cafe “is a trunk of a red cedar tree that came down in Hurricane Irene. When they built this, they put that [trunk] around a supporting column in the cafe, which is really cool. So being that is a cedar tree, and the street we live on is Cedarhurst Lane, we said Cedarhurst Cafe! It seemed to work.”
They opened last November. “We kept a lot of the Greenwell items because they worked, the smoothies, juices, all the coffees,” Teri says. “We added to the coffees, to the teas,” and especially, to the menu. Cedarhurst expanded beyond Greenwell’s vegan and vegetarian offerings to accommodate everyone. They now offer sandwiches, wraps, Belgian waffles, and real New York City bagels, straight from Queens. Next up they’ll be adding local ice cream.
The muffins are baked on the premises, the juices are squeezed right in front of you, and they added grab-and-go items. “It wasn’t intentional,” says Teri, “but we are bringing a lot of Milford here. The biscotti are from Kathy’s Cookies, the ice cream will be homemade from Walnut Creamery in Devon.”
The Cedarhurst Cafe is one of those perfect spots to spend hours on your laptop writing that great novel, or taking just long enough to slow down during the work day and take a break. And take a moment to check out the art on the walls. The exhibit changes monthly, and there is already a waiting list of artists who have applied to show work.
Restaurant Website: https://www.facebook.com/Cedarhurstcafenewhaven?ref=stream
• The Detes: 44 Crown St., New Haven. 203-773-0590. Open seven days: Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Price Range: Breakfast (all day) $2-6; lunch $4-9.50; smoothies or fresh-squeezed juices $6-8; coffees, teas, $1.50-5.
• Style of Food: American breakfast and lunch with a vegetarian direction
• Favorite dishes: Smoothies, egg sandwich, avocado salad.
• Drinks: fresh-squeezed juice, coffees and lattes of every stripe, teas
• Vegetarian/gluten free: absolutely
• Catering: yes
• Outdoor dining: yes