Opened November 14, 1994
One of life’s simple pleasures is going out for breakfast. Choices far exceed what’s on oﬀer at home, and the luxury of being served is an aﬀordable indulgence. A restaurant (that’s got it right) greets one gently with subdued murmurings of coﬀee-happy people overlaid by the reassuringly familiar aromas of coﬀee and bacon. Half a dozen good choices for a morning repast exist in Granby and close-by towns. Of course people have their favorites based on many factors, such as proximity to home, a delectable Eggs Benedict, a cozy booth.
But only one restaurant has one—all of the above, two—the name of its owner over its entrance, and three—an owner who actually greets and then serves you herself. Toni Ann Chamberlain is the eponymous hands-on owner and manager of a snug restaurant at 518 Salmon Brook Street in Granby. Toni Ann’s, open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week, caters to those seeking an intimate, friendly, and relaxed setting in which to start their day.
Originally a waitress for six years at Sunrise (formerly in Granby Center), Chamberlin decided to strike out on her own when Sunrise closed. She and her husband, Bobby, opened Toni Ann’s on Nov. 14, 1994. The original area was half the size it is now; a wall was removed and Bobby carried out the renovation and expansion, creating a space that feels just right. That was 25 years ago: 2019 is Toni Ann’s Silver Jubilee Year.
Judy Gove, Joyce LeJeune, and Linda Bergeron are waitresses. Lorraine Molloy, baker, has been with Toni Ann “from day one.” She comes to the kitchen three days a week at 4:30 a.m. to turn out muﬃns (raspberry, corn and blueberry), cream cheese coﬀeecakes, pies (pecan, blueberry, pumpkin and apple) and apple crisp. Kyle Cahill, a Southwick High School student, is busser and dishwasher. Lines can blur on job descriptions: everybody pitches in as needed—including regulars who will pour coﬀee for a newcomer if staﬀ is in the kitchen.
Matt Buldrini and Rich Bergeron are the cooks, boasting 85 years of culinary experience between them. They plate up forty-ﬁve pounds of Farmland bacon and ninety dozen eggs weekly. Buldrini, in signature baseball cap, is noted for good-natured heckling of his boss and non-stop kibitzing with customers during his infrequent escapes from the kitchen. He says, “The diﬀerence between this place and others is that we know all our regular customers. We remember what they like and how they want it prepared.”
Toni Ann’s is comfy with a country vibe. Patchwork quilts, rotated seasonally, gladden the walls; Boyd’s Bears nestle in sheltered spots; family photos overlook the check-out area. Collection jars for Granby’s Mary’s Kitty Corner and Paws4Rescue (North Granby) sit conveniently next to the cash register. An ATM tries in vain to look inconspicuous; failing that, it makes up by easing payment: Toni Ann’s accepts only cash or local checks.
Excepting busy weekend mornings, one can choose seating from among seven booths and ﬁve tables set for four. A U-shaped counter designed for cross-counter chatter oﬀers 10 stools. The regulars have their special spots here but Toni Ann says do join in if there’s room. Lively conversation revolves around current events in Granby, politics, the weather, and updates on families and pets. Pesky kitchen odors are kept at bay by a Plexiglass panel dividing kitchen from patrons. Enjoy the cooks in action while resting assured that Bacon Eau de Parfume will not be your chosen scent for the day.
While breakfast out is a once-a-week treat for many, Toni Ann’s enjoys a signiﬁcant number of patrons who show up every morning. Barbara Berkowitz, top listing and selling agent with Coldwell Banker, is in at 6:30 when she isn’t on a cruise. She’ll show you photos of her rescue donkeys, Abigail and Penelope. Carmine Pandolﬁ, owner of Granby Package Store, stops by for coﬀee before going on to work to sell beverages of a diﬀerent sort. “Jo” and Ed Ferrin have come for breakfast every day for five years. Sally and Hank Tuinstra, married 60 years in January, come routinely every morning Monday through Saturday and have done so for 25 years. Gil Justo, 85, drops in for coﬀee several times a week. Many more people make Toni Ann’s a part of their regular routine; regretfully all cannot be included. But rest assured: Chamberlain values each person who crosses her threshold.
Tables are readily combined to accommodate special interest groups such as members of The Sweet Adelines who arrive the ﬁrst Saturday of each month at 9 a.m.. Rosemarie Mendes explains, “Most of us are retired from our Sweet Adelines groups but meet once a month to stay in touch.” Retired or not, these songbirds treat their fellow breakfasters to a mini-concert in between ordering and receiving their bacon and eggs. In December it was a jazzed-up version of Jingle Bells followed by an exuberant Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. On February 2, romance was in the air with Sentimental Journey, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and In the Still of the Night.
Charlie Baldis, Jim Holcomb, and Bill Moody, average age 90, meet for breakfast every Tuesday at 8 a.m.. Veterans of the Navy, the Air Force, and the Army respectively, their combined service totals 45 years.
Asked about retirement, Chamberlain swiftly asserts: “Retirement is not in my vocabulary. This is my home, my family.” Sally Tuinstra says, “We’re a circle of friends and a bunch of ‘huggers.’ We don’t always know everybody’s name but we’d be willing to help out if needed.”
Virginia Satir (1916-1988), American author and family therapist, wrote, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Make your way to Toni Ann’s one of these mornings. You might hear a song, you might ﬁnd a veteran to thank, and you might get a hug. But you’ll deﬁnitely feel the heartbeat of Granby. With bacon to boot.