By Emily J. Weitz
When Harbor Market & Kitchen was getting ready to open last year, there were murmurs in town about how it would serve the Sag Harbor community. For generations the little market on the corner of Henry and Division has been a fixture in the daily lives of Sag Harbor residents, from its time as a penny candy shop to Espresso’s Italian Market. A block away from the school, the space is incorporated into the lives of local schoolchildren and their parents. And just outside the hustle and bustle of Main Street, it’s long been an easy stop for takeout and coffee. Owners Paul and Susana Del Favaro and Abbey Warsh knew all of this when they took over the market, and it was with great sensitivity that they formulated what was to come.
“At first we were very conscious of taking away something old and beloved here,” said Ms. Warsh over a cup of coffee in the comfy corner banquette, which was lovingly built out of the old wooden beams of the building. “So we visualized what it must have felt like as a real corner store.”
A year later, Harbor Market is the kind of place where everyone feels familiar, the kind of place people go to every single day. But even with respect to tradition and heritage, the owners wanted to bring something fresh and new to the village as well.
“We thought about what we felt was missing,” said Ms. Warsh. “We felt what was missing was good, restaurant quality, healthy food that you could eat at home.”
Once they got over the idea of opening a traditional restaurant, because that need was filled, they shifted their focus to takeout. They thought about things they loved to eat, and things they loved to make. Then they thought of what would round out the menu: hand cut French fries and personal pizzas for kids to round out the creative salads and fish tacos.
Because of their awareness of the local community, Harbor Market wasn’t trying to compete. Ms. Warsh believes there’s room for everyone to succeed, and they considered other restaurants when they created their menu.
“I don’t want to do things that other people do really well,” she said. “We don’t have a burger on our menu. We don’t need to be the third burger in Sag Harbor. But we did just put a fantastic veggie burger on the menu, because that was needed.”
Harbor Market was originally intended to be a real market, and the shelves were stocked with groceries like Cheerios alongside more local artisanal products. But they got feedback from customers that they didn’t want to see Cheerios at Harbor Market — that they came here for something special. And the management changed with the need.
“We took the common things off the shelves,” said Ms. Warsh. “We took away the soy sauce everybody knows and replaced it with a handcrafted soy sauce that nobody has seen before. Two drops of this [Bluegrass soy sauce, made in Kentucky] — it’s a whole different thing.”
Harbor Market also has housewares, gifts, and books, which were more successful than they had anticipated. Next holiday season, they’ll be much more heavily stocked in these types of items, curated by co-owner Susana del Favaro.
Then there’s the ever-expanding selection of handmade candies, which take the same role as Reese’s peanut butter cups or Snickers bars at the cash register. But they’re all carefully selected by Ms. Warsh, who is a self-described “lunatic” for candy.
“I want to have a couple choices of serious dark chocolate made only with roasted cacao and sugar, by hand by one person,” she said. “Then the handmade versions of Mounds and Snickers, or the caramels our pastry chef Dorothy makes here.”
From-scratch food is at the heart of what they do at Harbor Market. The pastry chef is there every day at 5 a.m., and when she places the trays of muffins and croissants out at 7 a.m., they are as fresh as can be.
“I often say I wish I could take a picture of the smell,” said Ms. Warsh as she describes a tray of muffins underneath cooling under your nose.
The savory food is made in the same loving way, by co-owner Paul Del Favaro.
“Sometimes I wonder if people know how lucky they are,” said Ms. Warsh, “in terms of the care and expertise in preparing the food each day.”
From the daily customers who come in for breakfast and take lunch on the go, to the ever-growing catering clientele and the people setting up house accounts so their kids can come by on their own, the Harbor Market has firmly established itself in Sag Harbor.
“We’ve had quite a few people approach us about opening Harbor Market in other places,” said Ms. Warsh. “But we’re not ready for anything like that. The next couple months are about putting our heads down and doing what we do well. We are focused on making our beautiful food, making sure people don’t wait too long, and making sure they have a good experience when they come in.”
For more information, visit harbormarket.com.