When the quaint structure dating to the 1800s that had housed Cranberry’s Gourmet shop and restaurant was gutted by fire last September, one of the few comforts for owners Tom Barone and Ray Fiorello was the scores of neighbors and customers who called and stopped by to console them. Only the exterior walls were left standing in the space on Public Road in Monroe that in earlier times had been a general store and post office. It had been Cranberry’s for 20 years, a gourmet deli for eating-in and taking-out. Barone and Fiorello had bought it from the original owners about four years before the fire, the cause of which was eventually ruled electrical.
About 80 percent of Cranberry’s business was catering, much of it corporate catering, and immediately following the fire the pair scrambled to find temporary locations in order to keep their commitment to parties already booked. Then, in late November, they set up temporary quarters at Waterside Villas, a senior housing complex in Monroe, which is where they are operating now. “We are able to take care of the residents here as well as our catering clients,” Fiorello says. “At this point in time our main goal is to get back on people’s radar. The message is, we’re coming back! We want to let people know that we’re still delivering, and we’re still catering this holiday season.”
The pair is also moving forward on a new permanent location where they will dispense their home-style baked goods, soups, sandwiches, and more. A space at Cedar Brook Corporate Park on Route 130 in Cranbury is being readied for an early 2010 debut. “It’s all brand new,” Fiorello says, with excitement in his voice. “The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and there’s a lake off to the side. The interior will have a different feel to it. There still will be wood and brick, but with a more contemporary-country look that’s suited to today. Like the previous spot, it will be eat-in and tailored to walk-in traffic. The contractors are saying it will be ready in January, but Tom and I are saying early 2010.”
Cranberry’s will bring back all the same offerings, including hot selections daily, panini, and pizza menus, and a sort of culinary showcase each week of, say, something like sushi. “Plus,” Fiorello adds, “more seasonal and local stuff.”
The months since the fire have taken a heavy toll on the partners, who met when they were both working in the kitchen of what was at the time the Doral Forrestal (now the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal). “It has been long, stressful, and frustrating,” Fiorello says. “You know what you’re capable of doing, and you know that everybody wants you to be around. We just want to do the work we love. There has been a lot of difficult paperwork. Just now I’ve been sitting at the computer for five hours straight. I’d much rather have a pan in my hand than a pen.”
Fiorello and Barone encourage their loyal customers to keep in touch. “We want them to know we’re working tirelessly to get back,” Fiorello says, and suggests that people stay abreast of developments by signing up for Cranberry’s newsletter via the website. One facet of those new, forthcoming developments particularly tickles Ray Fiorello. “We’ll now be in Cranbury. After all these years of people asking us if Cranberry’s was located in Cranbury, we can say we are.”
Cranberry’s Gourmet Shoppe, 609-655-0134. www.cranberrysgourmet.com