Marie's Sandwich Shop is back in business; grand opening Friday

After closing suddenly last March, Marie’s Sandwich Shop is officially back in business this Friday, under owners that that want to ensure the beloved restaurant stays connected to its roots.

When Eda Balonze started as a waitress at Marie’s Sandwich Shop around 2001, she was just learning English, after arriving from her native Turkey. Now, on Friday, she will be back in Marie’s, serving up breakfast and lunch as an owner.

Many Trumbullites considered it a great loss to Trumbull Center when previous Marie’s owner, Kathleen Hallahan, closed the restaurant last March, citing economic reasons. But it became a chance to make a dream come true for Balonze, who will be running the business with her extended family, including two sisters, Selena Uyar and Freda Schrang and her father and mother, Corc and Suat Uyar, who live in Trumbull.

“When I came here I didn’t know the difference between over-easy and over-hard,” Balonze said. That has changed.

Balonze went on to run a deli in Stratford for a time, but always dreamed of owning the Trumbull diner. She tried to buy Marie’s when it was sold in 2006, but it didn’t work out.

“I’m so attached to this place,” she said. “There are so many personal memories here.”

Balonze recalled the regulars she served, who began treating her like and calling her a granddaughter. She’s enjoyed running into those people in the last few months as work has been ongoing at the restaurant. Balonze has heard from residents how excited they are about the reopening and she has found notes of support taped on the restaurant’s entrance from time to time.

In some ways, the Marie’s will be back in the original family’s ownership. Balonze is related through marriage to Paula Andrews, the daughter of the restaurant’s former owner and namesake. Andrews is married to Corc Uyar’s uncle.

Marie’s first opened in 1962, in another section of Trumbull Center and later relocated to the building now shared with Starbucks. Andrews took up ownership with her sister for years, until selling Marie’s in 2006 Andrews stopped by Marie’s this week. She said her mother and father will be stopping by Friday’s grand opening.

“My mother was heartbroken when we sold this place,” Andrews said.

While she is now in her mid-eighties, Andrews said, her mother would still work there if she could.

“I wish them all the luck in the world,” Andrews said of the new owners.

Balonze has made sure to keep the menu nearly the same, while adding a few Mediterranean dishes and more salad options. They will also make fresh desserts and offer new specials.

“I didn’t want to play with the menu too much,” she said. “We are always open to what the customers want.”

Customers will be surrounded by familiar faces, since some of the waitresses and the grill cook will return.

It’s been months of work to get the restaurant up to code and ready to open. Everything is new and clean, she said.

Balonze thanked her entire family, including her husband, Dennis and brother-in-law Richard Schrang for all the help. She said she is grateful of support from Trumbull’s Economic Development Director Edward Lavernoich, as well as staff in the Health and Building Departments. She also thanked Trumbull Center landlords, Peter and Sal DiNardo. While there plans to eventually tear down the Starbucks, CVS and Marie's building, the restaurant would be relocated to another part of the center during the work. Balonze said.

Balonze said she is excited to welcome back customers, from high school students getting breakfast, to construction workers, families and regulars.

“I’m excited, I can’t wait,” she said. “It feels like family here.”

This Friday, Dec. 13 is the grand opening. The restaurant's hours are 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.