“Gooooood Morning Katie”
It was 9:00 a.m. when I walked into the tiny shop and the routine chatter commenced.
“Goooooood morning Katie,” a running joke of several months persists.
“Good morning Brian,” I say with a smile.
“Give me one second,” he says and shouts towards the kitchen, “Do you have a bacon egg and cheese for Caroline?”
He runs back to fetch it and returns in seconds.
“Here you are,” he says and slides it across the counter towards the register.
A big smile forms to shape his face. It’s one of those giddy, heartfelt, ‘I am genuinely laughing at your joke – and enjoy hearing about your life’ – smile. Not one of those, ‘I will laugh at your jokes and grin when you walk in (because I am supposed to do that so buy my food)’ – smile.
His hair is greying, his facial hair whitening around his chin. His eyes remain bright, but on occasion they appear tired. He is sporting an Abello’s hat and an Abello’s t-shirt that falls below his waist. Both are a grey-blue with white lettering. Today he wears maroon basketball shorts with a white vertical stripe treading down the side of them paired with sneakers.
He is the epitome of service with a smile. He is Brian Abel.
“My days here are numbered.”
Today, however, he is different. His eyes dart around, possibly to evade conversation, possibly because he is stressed; he moves slower, and something about him seems off.
“How are you doing today?” I ask, inquiring about his change in demeanor.
“My days here are numbered.”
I look shocked, and from his reaction he was suddenly unaware that he hadn’t told me yet.
He was selling Abellos.
The “Bad Deli Curse”
The only consistent thing about the beach deli on the corner of Beach and Reef Road in Fairfield is that it is always changing. The store has been transformed three times in the past couple of years – handed over to a new owner, in hopes that this time it would last. Previously closed, D. Lish had minimal reviews on Yelp! – the only good one is suspect of being written by a child who hacked her mother’s laptop, “probably the best deli in Fairfield county”… followed by a photo of cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes, everyone’s favorite cold cut. Right below that a different review, and probably a more reliable one, attached to a downright ugly looking picture of a sandwich followed by, “The chicken was like a hockey puck.” Evidently.
The establishment prior to D.lish, Beachside, which, according to rumors, was shut down due to being a drug front, had similarly sporadic reviews. The few of them ranged from delicious to terrible, more than half being four and five stars, and the rest one and two. But Abellos, Abellos had broken the bad deli curse. All of its reviews were constantly ranked with four or five stars. Abel’s friendly smile paired with a Doc Bob hero was unmatched.
This time I really thought we got it right, I thought it was going to last, but all good things must come to an end. But before they end, they must begin…
“It all started when”
Abel ran across the baseball field, leaving his friends in a storm of dust, too fast for anyone to get even within feet of catching him. At just 15 he had a need for speed. Abel was a great athlete, but certainly not a great student.
“I graduated high school six months late and I was in college for six years.”
On Abel’s first day of high school the teacher called his name for attendance and asked if he was in any relation to Michelle Abel, who was in fact his star student sister. Abel said yes and the teacher responded, “Well then, we expect big things from you.”
In response, spitfire Abel said “Oh, well you’re going to be very, very disappointed.”
As he got older he continued to show little interest in school. Sports, girls and drugs were more his forte, and they happily sidetracked him from his mundane schoolwork.
“I was a little bit of a druggie back in my day.” Although he says he was never much of a pot smoker, he admits to doing Quaaludes, snorting cocaine and trying acid.
He went on to attend University of Las Vegas Nevada, a school known more for their partying than their academics. One of his most notable nights, but probably not for good reason, was taking 21 shots of Jack on his 21st birthday.
“I threw up right outside the door of my apartment in Vegas, and it never rains, so it was there for like six months.” It stuck around to haunt and remind him of one of his worst hangovers.
He didn’t always know he wanted to be apart of the hotel restaurant business, but after studying it at UNLV he came to realize it was something he was interested in. He got a job in San Jose, California with the Hyatt’s training program and worked his way up to the assistant manager of the restaurant. After about two years there he took his skills to the Hyatt in Greenwich where his journey in Conn. began.
Abello’s in Fairfield is just one of Abel’s many delis. For 11 years, starting in 1996, it was Jake’s Place in Darien, Conn. Then it was Dalton’s in Norwalk, later Abello’s in Darien, where the name arose from a combination of his partner and his last name, and finally, Abello’s as we know and love it, in Fairfield, Conn.
Standing all day, everyday, working the front counter, taking orders and making food has taken a toll on his body, and he has decided it is time for him to let this chapter in his life come to a close.
The California sun sets on Abello’s
Abel celebrated his 57th birthday last Sunday on November 13 how he liked to best: by sleeping in.
You know him as your favorite sandwich shop owner, but others know him as Brian Abel, a family man, a once rebellious teen, and a kick ass athlete.
He’s a little saddened to be saying goodbye, but knows that it is time for the next chapter in his life. With his loving wife Michelle already working in California he is excited to get there himself. Her California job is the main catalyst of the move.
At this point he is ready for the California sun to set on his final restaurant. He plans to work part-time, probably at a deli, but definitely won’t be owning, and his main priorities will be to play with his dogs and spend more time with his wife.
For those of you still trying to solve the joke, I’ll fill you in. One day the main chef at Abello’s mistakenly called me the name Katie. Now every time I walk through the deli’s door the staff screams in unison “KATIE!” To think I thought my nickname would last.
In the near future I guess I’ll just have to settle for Caroline, but the doc bobs, can I live without the doc bobs? Only time will tell.
As for us, maybe after being spoiled with the crispiest bacon on our breakfast sandwiches, the most tender meat on our lunch sandwiches, and the most flavorful pasta dishes for dinner, we are being punished for our indulgences. After all, it is true that all great things revert back to the mean. But, one thing we know that will not change is Brian Abel, and his giddy, heartfelt, ‘I am genuinely laughing at your joke – and enjoy hearing about your life’ – smile.