North Stonington — Drop by The Tin Peddler on Route 2 and you can find milk and pork from farms in town, household staples like cleaning supplies and toilet paper, and a rotation of dinner options, such as stuffed native fluke, scallop and mushroom ravioli and chickpea korma.
The Tin Peddler Kitchen & Pantry opened Feb. 19 at 230 Norwich-Westerly Road, on the stretch between Red Onion Pizza and Jake’s Restaurant.
Owners Nichole Jenkins, Mariah Pfiffner and Julian ElFedayni-Connell all came from 85th Day Food Community, a Mystic-based restaurant and catering group that includes Oyster Club, Engine Room, Grass & Bone and Nana’s Bakery & Pizza.
“As restaurant people, you kind of always have in the back of your mind that you want to do something for yourself,” ElFedayni-Connell said, and with the COVID-19 pandemic changing restaurant business models, they decided to act on their vision for selling locally sourced food.
ElFedayni-Connell, 29, says the food industry is in his blood: For his whole life, his father has been a chef. ElFedayni-Connell went to Grasso Tech for culinary arts, going on to become sous chef at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain at Mohegan Sun and then working in New York City.
He spent the past five years as sous chef at Engine Room, and he can now be found in the kitchen of The Tin Peddler doing butchering, making stocks, baking cookies and bread, and coming up with nightly dinner specials, which are served from 4 to 8 p.m.
He said they try to do fish on Fridays, roasts on Sundays and meatless Mondays. Meals are generally $15 to $20 for one person, and $30 to $38 for two. In addition to dinner options, the menu throughout the day includes an egg sandwich and breakfast burrito, sandwiches, salads, bowls, soups and coffee.
Operating out of a building that was previously a Subway restaurant and before that a bank, The Tin Peddler also has a drive-thru. Customers can order online or call the market; the owners request 15 minutes’ notice for a simple takeout order like a sandwich and 24 hours’ notice for a full-blown grocery order.
Pfiffner, 40, started in the restaurant industry bussing tables in the Caribbean after graduating college. She worked at a Michelin star restaurant in Portland, Maine, before spending nine years working for restaurateur Dan Meiser of 85th Day.
The first restaurant experience for Jenkins, 31, was working in a pizza place at 19. She went to college for biology but liked the social aspect and high activity of the restaurant industry, and spent a couple summers working on Block Island.
Pfiffner and Jenkins were respectively managers at Engine Room and Grass & Bone, and they’re now handling the front-of-house and operations side of The Tin Peddler.
On the market side, the business sells cheese from Cato Corner Farm in Colchester and Mystic Cheese Company, milk from Terra Firma Farm in North Stonington and Sweet Grass Creamery in Preston, pork products from FireFly Farms in North Stonington, beef from Beriah Lewis Farm in North Stonington and honey from Stonewall Apiary, which keeps about 275 honeybee colonies in eastern Connecticut.
The Tin Peddler also carries spices, baking ingredients, pasta, soup, beans, bread, jams, eggs, potatoes, onions, cookies and chips.
Pfiffner explained that the name of the market came from the book “Cracker Barrel Chronicle II: A Connecticut Yankee Storekeeper Views Village Life in North Stonington,” which George H. Stone published in 1986.
There’s a quote from the book next to the menu: “To those who remember the old, upon arrival to North Stonington, folks used to watch and wait for the old, red, tin cart, for it brought to their doors, the articles they needed in their homes and on their farms.”
Pfiffner is originally from Colchester but recently moved to North Stonington; also living on the property are her brother and Jenkins, who is engaged to Pfiffner’s brother.
Wanting to learn about her town’s history, Pfiffner read Stone’s book. She learned that the peddler coming in the early 1900s was a sign of spring.
In the future, Pfiffner said she would love for The Tin Peddler to provide food to local wineries, and to take on some catering.
Editor’s Note: This version corrects that Beriah Lewis Farm is in North Stonington.