Bill and Andrea Pecoriello with employee Charlie Biondi at the new “The Porch at the Y” café in the Westport Weston Family YMCA. The Pecoriellos also founded Sweet P bakery and The Porch at Christie’s, which help train and provide jobs for adults with different abilities. / Photos by Gretchen Webster
Baked goods from Sweet P bakery in Norwalk are among the treats for sale at The Porch at the Y café.

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — First, there was Sweet P, a bakery in Norwalk that employs adults with disabilities, opened by Westporters Andrea and Bill Pecoriello. Then, they opened The Porch at Christie’s restaurant on Cross Highway two years ago, serving breakfast, lunch and Sweet P’s baked goods. 

Now, they have a café, “The Porch at the Y,” located in the Westport Weston Family YMCA on Allen Raymond Lane. Like the others, the new café helps train and employ adults with developmental and learning differences.

But the couple is not done expanding their nonprofits. Although they opened the café at the Y on March 13, they are now in the process of more than doubling the size of their commercial kitchen in Norwalk for bakery, restaurant and catering work. The Pecoriellos’ catering features offerings like “Salads for a Crowd,” breakfast, sandwiches and wraps, and “Game Day” and dessert platters. They employ culinary professionals, including pastry chefs, as well as the staff they train to work alongside the professionals, according to Bill Pecoriello.

Bill and Andrea Pecoriellos’ mission statement is displayed at their third and newest nonprofit enterprise, The Porch at the Y.

They also will soon start selling many varieties of “Colossal Cookies” nationwide.

“We’re just going to keep trying to find ways to create more meaningful jobs” for their special staff, Andrea Pecoriello said.

It all started when the Pecoriellos’ three children, now adults, volunteered in a program with disabled children. The whole family became close to the children’s differently abled partners, their mother explained. 

The Pecoriello children graduated and moved on with their own careers, but their volunteering inspired their parents to start a business where adults with different abilities could be trained for employment. 

Andrea Pecoriello, an accountant, now works full time in their nonprofit enterprise, while her husband, who also operates a business in consumer data, often helps.

Bill Pecoriello said he and his wife are entrepreneurs with “a mission we believe in. We are using our resources and skills to make the world a better place.”

Two days after the new café opened at the YMCA, staff member Charlie Biondi was behind the counter serving drinks, snacks and baked goods, and ringing up sales as Y members, young and old, sampled the spot.

Charlie Biondi, who received training at Sweet P bakery and The Porch at Christie’s, behind the counter at The Porch at the Y café, where he started his new job last week.

Biondi is one of about 20 staffers who’ve been trained at the bakery and The Porch at Christie’s. Now, he has a paid job at the YMCA café, and will be joined soon by others who finished their training in December.

The YMCA café menu is similar to offerings at Christie’s, including hot and cold drinks, snacks, baked goods and some lunch items.

On Friday, Andrea Pecoriello was standing by as Biondi served café customers at the Y. She was on hand if any questions came up.

Volunteers also are sought to assist, if needed, workers at the cafe in shifts of about three hours, Andrea Pecoriello said. Most of the time, volunteers can relax, read and be present for support, she said.

The motto, “Together everything is possible,” is written on the couple’s mission statement that hangs in the new café.

The ‘P’ in Sweet P Bakery — their first enterprise — “stands for perseverance, passion, and especially, purpose,” Andrea Pecoriello said. “Giving someone just one job can change a life.”

The Porch at the Y, is open 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Weekend hours will be added later. For more information visit the café’s page on the Y website; email catering@theporchatchristies.com, or call 203-557-6323.

_______________________________

Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman and has taught journalism at New York and Southern Connecticut State universities.