From Coco to Calico: Restaurateurs, former employees relaunch famed eatery under new name
|Published: 03-30-2022 2:48 PM
EASTHAMPTON — A shuttered Main Street restaurant that beckoned national attention has reopened its doors under a new name.
Three former employees of Coco and The Cellar Bar and two area restaurateurs have relaunched the 95 Main St. hot spot under the new name, Calico.
“We’re ready to get the family back together,” said Laura Briggs, co-owner and manager of Calico. “I have missed everyone so much. I’m so excited to be back in this space with a whole new concept, but with everything being still very familiar.”
Joining Briggs, who served as Coco’s general manager for seven years and two years as a server, are co-owners Joce Glaze and Caroline Rayner, as well as Robyn Wynn of Northampton-based Roost and Jeff Igneri of Local Burger, which has locations in Northampton, Haydenville and Keene, New Hampshire.
Shortly after Coco suddenly closed last August after more than a decade in business, a GoFundMe to aid the restaurant’s workers who had lost their jobs without notice raised more than $11,000.
The community support prompted two Northampton businessmen from the consulting firm Second Wind Consultants — Adam Suso, CEO, and Martin Mahoney, COO — to reach out to former members of the restaurant’s staff and ask if they were interested in bringing the nationally acclaimed restaurant back to life. Unmi Abkin, Coco’s former co-owner and chef, was named a semifinalist to the James Beard Foundation Awards for best chef in the Northeast five times.
“Everyone hated seeing them close. The opportunity to help people out and keep this alive … it was a no-brainer,” Igneri said. “I invested basically my life savings in them. I’m pretty confident in them and excited about it.”
Initially, Igneri said the plan was to rent the space, but previous owners, Abkin and Roger Taylor, wanted to sell the business and the building. According to records from the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds, Lilulo LLC, which is registered to Igneri, purchased the building for $875,000 from Pizzatronics Worldwide LLC.
The calico cat is believed to be lucky according to the folklore of a number of cultures. Calicos tend to be predominantly female because of the way their coat color is inherited. When it came time to choose a name, Briggs said the name Calico just made sense.
“They’re the original lucky cat,” she said. “And we feel very fortunate to be here, and to have everything happen that’s led us to this point.”
Much like the calico cat, Briggs said the color scheme of her restaurant will be cozy with fresh paint and featuring eclectic artwork from local artists.
“We want our guests to feel the same magic they felt before,” said Glaze, recalling a number of recently wed couples that chose to make the former restaurant their reception hall.
As the Easthampton eatery waits on its liquor license, Calico officially opened to the public on Wednesday, March 23 serving takeout only, Wednesday through Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. Ordering is available online and same-day ordering begins at 9 a.m. Orders may be placed at calicoeasthampton.com.
Glaze likened the ordering buzz to purchasing online long-awaited concert tickets, constantly refreshing the web page.
“Watching the time blocks (for takeout orders) fill up is like watching fireworks shoot off,” said Glaze with a laugh. “People gotta get their fried chicken!”
One of Coco’s mainstays was its buttermilk fried chicken. Glaze promises that Calico’s chicken will be just like everyone remembers it.
Also returning to Calico’s kitchen are Theo Schiller, Joe Gionfriddo Camilo and Gonzalez-Wohl, who Briggs says have a lot of ideas on some of the former favorites with some fun twists.
For now, Briggs said the restaurant has a staff of six. When the restaurant opens in-house dining, she said there will be a staff of 10 to 15 people.
Once the liquor license is approved, Briggs said Calico will expand its menu. The restaurant also aims to introduce a wine program that gravitates toward natural and biodynamic wines, or wines that are made by farming without the use of chemicals and using natural materials and composts.
“I developed an interest during the pandemic,” said Rayner, who will be running the wine program. “I wanted to be more intentional about the wine I was drinking. I wanted to know about what the grapes were and where they came from … I’m excited to bring that research into Calico.”Emily Thurlow can be reached at email@example.com.