C’est Cheese will live to cater another day.
Bill and Lisa Corvelli have bought the restaurant, a lunchtime fixture in Morristown that had been scheduled to close on Monday after three decades on South Street.
“I’m making a big bet on Morristown. I love this town. It’s got a great vibe to it,” said Bill Corvelli, a Whippany resident who knows something about sprucing up established venues.
His company, Corvelli Services, remediates homes ravaged by Superstorm Sandy and other environmental problems.
And 13 months ago, he and his wife, who has a hair salon, bought Hapgood’s, a deli in Mountain Lakes, and gave it a facelift.
“I learned that you have to keep costs down, serve good food, and hire the right people,” said Bill.
The Corvellis feel they have a head start at C’est Cheese with veteran manager Patrice Anderson. She is staying, along with most of the staff. The menu–including scones and a salad bar– will remain largely as-is, too, albeit with a greater emphasis on cold-cut sandwiches, delivery to area businesses, and catering services.
Walls, floors and tables will be getting a new look over the next few weeks. Since taking over late last week from
founder longtime owner Jim Patryak, the Corvellis already have replaced a stove. More kitchen upgrades are anticipated under the guidance of their Mountain Lakes chef, Chris Leone, who was trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
One thing you can’t buy anymore at C’est Cheese is wine. Bill said the establishment’s retail liquor license has been sold to an undisclosed buyer.
“I like to serve families,” Bill said. “I don’t feel having liquor all over the place is a good atmosphere. I did the same thing in Mountain Lakes.”
Bill declined to discuss financial details of the business purchase, or the license sale. The license had been valued at $225,000 according to Patrice; the shop’s equipment and inventory were worth about $30,000, and another $30,000 in renovations were needed, she said when the closing was announced last month.
At the time, Patrice cited increasing competition, a crushing winter, tight parking and a shaky economy as factors that resulted in C’est Cheese falling behind on rent payments to the Silverman Group, which still owns the space.
But those worries seemed like distant memories at C’est Cheese on Monday.
“I’m ecstatic. This is exactly what we needed,” said employee Ashleigh Mallo, a 2012 Morristown High grad who considers the shop her second home.
“We’re just glad we all get to stay around,” said Patrice, who won’t be retiring to her Morris Township Garden just yet. After 22 years of managing C’est Cheese, however, she is hoping to scale back her 80-hour work weeks.
Bill, 48, said his appetite for the food business dates to his youth, when his grandfather owned the Crystal Lake Casino in West Orange.
“I eat food every day. I love it,” he said. With every visit to a restaurant, “I always think, ‘What could I do better?’”
When a customer at Hapgood’s mentioned that C’est Cheese was for sale, Bill came for a look and stood in line.
“I heard good things, talking to people,” he recounted. “There’s a homey, comfortable feeling. I like the feeling here. The customers are nice. I saw potential here.”
Chris, 34, said he believes in the farm-to-table movement, and will try to source as many C’est Cheese foods as possible from local farms. All the other ingredients for success are present, he said.
“Morristown has great people, a great atmosphere. It’s very diverse, hip, up-and-coming. It’s modern, yet still has plenty of tradition,” the chef said.
For Bill, the formula is very basic:
“It’s about catering to customers. Keeping it simple. Keeping it clean.”