New owners bring energy to Noonie’s Deli
MIDDLEBURY — The latest owners of Noonie’s Deli — Meagan Oberly and Justin Wedge — promised to bring stability and more scratch cooking to the much-loved Middlebury sandwich shop, which has changed hands four times during the past decade.
The couple officially acquired Noonie’s from Jonathan Wish on Aug. 1. At the time, Oberly had been serving as the shop’s general manager and Wedge had been helping out in the kitchen. Wish, according to the couple, had other business interests in Chittenden County that were taking his time, so much so that he was looking to sell Noonie’s to someone who could give the shop the attention it needed.
Wish asked Oberly earlier this year if she would consider taking the keys to the shop, located in the Marble Works complex.
He didn’t have to ask twice.
“I left the meeting saying, ‘Yes, we’re doing it,’” Oberly said, beaming at her partner at her side for a Tuesday interview with the Independent.
“We’d always talked about owning a restaurant, but we didn’t think it was possible,” she added.
The stars had suddenly aligned for two eager thirty-somethings who had each spent most of their working years in the food service industry.
“I feel our hard work over the years has paid off,” said Wedge, who will run the kitchen.
It’s a environment where he feels at home.
Wedge took culinary courses with Chef Woody Danforth at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center. His cooking stops following school included the Storm Café in Middlebury, American Glory BBQ in Hudson, N.Y., and most recently, chef and baker at Almost Home Market in Bristol.
Oberly, meanwhile, knows Noonie’s like the back of her hand. She’s worked there on an off for many years, dating back to longtime former owner Karen Phelps.
The new owners’ recipe for success will include equal parts hard work, fresh ingredients, more dessert options and a couple of new sandwich varieties. But they won’t make major changes to a menu that has attracted many loyal customers. For example, the “Purple’s Pleasure” sandwich will continue to tantalize the taste buds with its combination of turkey, bacon, onions, avocado, hot peppers, cheddar and basil mayo.
Still, Wedge is dreaming up new fare to satisfy customers’ wants. He recently added the “Louie” vegetarian sandwich that includes, among other things, spinach, mushrooms, red onions, tomatoes, hummus, pesto and provolone cheese. He’s also concocted a meatball sub, with of course scratch-made meatballs and sauce.
Wedge continues to bake brownies and energy bars as popular Noonie’s dessert options. But he’s adding his own flourishes to the mix, including cheesecake bars and bread pudding. Coming soon: Pumpkin pie bars.
Oberly and Wedge want to emphasize the homemade touches they are bringing back to Noonie’s. The shop in recent years had increasingly deviated from that practice, the partners said, and customers noticed. Some longtime regulars became no-shows. But those folks are now returning, according to Oberly. Business has surged across the board, and that includes catering gigs. Noonie’s sandwiches are in high demand for receptions, conferences, sports-related parties and other special events.
“We heard from people who said, ‘I hadn’t come in for a year, but heard good things recently,’” Wedge said.
Indeed, orders are up to the point where the business has had to decline a few catering requests. But Noonie’s can accommodate pretty much any order if given 48 hours notice, according to Wedge. This allows the kitchen to make sure enough fresh ingredients are on hand. For example, all sandwich bread is brought in daily from Blackburn Foods in Essex.
In an effort to make the dining experience better for adults and kids, the new owners plan to install a (free) video gaming system in the upstairs seating area, and they’ll invite Middlebury College art students to display their works on the shop walls.
They’ll gradually improve their kitchen equipment, including new ovens next year.
Finding employees in Vermont these days can be a challenge, but Oberly and Wedge have six helpers on staff. They try to take two days off per week in order to spend quality time with their young daughter. And since the couple plans to operate Noonie’s for a long time, their daughter and her cousins could eventually join them behind the counter.
“By the time they’re in high school, we’ll have guaranteed staffing for three positions,” Wedge joked.
Noonie’s is open seven days per week and delivers within the town of Middlebury. For more details, check out the Noonie’s website at nooniesdeli.com.
John Flowers is at [email protected].
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