Eric Cormier, owner of the new Po’ Boy sandwich shop on Crafts Street, admits he sort of did things backwards in opening his first restaurant in Everett. But he got it right before he came to Newtonville.
“I ran it very, very well,” Cormier says of the restaurant he opened in 2009. “The name ‘po’ boys’ was brought to my attention, and I opened it up without really knowing about the history of the name. But then I came to really find out about it, went down there to New Orleans, and when I came here (to Newton), my focal point was making it the real deal, a real po’ boy. And I’m just taking it from there.”
That is not to say that Cormier is a man without a plan. When he decided that his previous jobs in construction and then hair styling were not his “passion,” Cormier took a good hard look at what he wanted from his life.
“I realized that I just loved people and I wanted to make them happy for a living,” Cormier explains. “I said, I’m 45 years old, I have a two-year-old and a beautiful wife. It’s time for me to figure out my passion.”
After some speculation about the new eatery from the local foodie public, Cormier opened the sandwich shop at 67 Crafts St. Newtonville on Dec. 18, replacing the former Jo Jo's Kitchen.
Cormier acknowledges that he “won’t be getting rich” as a restaurateur. But that isn’t his ultimate goal. Cormier says that at the end of the day he just wants to be “the good guy around the corner who made your sandwich, the way you like it.”
And that is exactly how Cormier, together with cook Scott Silveira, does things.
When a new customer comes in near closing time, Cormier runs down the street to catch Silveira before his cook heads home. Cormier then spends several minutes describing in great detail all of the po’ boy sandwiches on the menu- the voodoo shrimp, the zesty fish and, of course, the fried oyster. Cormier tells the customer that everything is made from scratch and cooked to order. The customer settles on the shrimp, but Cormier tells Silveira to throw in, on the house, some of the fried oysters (and their perfectly-seasoned dipping sauce that needs two days of “sitting” to marry the flavors).
These “freebies,” and the often negotiable prices that Cormier offers to the regular customers, go directly against the advice of some of Cormier’s very famous advisors. But he does take some of their advice to heart.
“The owners of Harrow’s Chicken Pot Pies had some advice for me,” recounts Cormier. “They had said to me ‘Get to know your customers, get to know your customer base and then work from there. Do the best that you can with the food that you make.’ They hit it right on the mark.”
Knowing his customers is the key to Cormier’s plan for success. Right now, Po’ Boy is open from 5:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., but starting on Mon., January 7 the small storefront will be open until 6 p.m. This will allow fans of Po’ Boy to swing by on their way to work for a quick, inexpensive breakfast and then on their way home, stop by to grab a po’ boy sandwich to go.
Come summer, there will also be tables out front for customers to sit and enjoy their sandwiches as well as the wide assortment of ice cream flavors from “Scoops”- the ice cream shop within Po’ Boy. Shakes, floats, smoothies and sundaes will also be available, and if things work out Cormier hopes to have a walk-up window as well.
It is the perfect venue for the kind of neighborhood spot that Cormier is looking to create. And he is not averse to revisiting and rethinking things as his business evolves, with some input from his customer base.
For example, he keeps a close eye on the reviews and comments on sites like Yelp and Chowhound. Cormier acknowledges that his decision to make his sandwiches on ciabatta bread, as opposed to the soft roll on which more traditional po’ boys are served, is controversial. He also is using romaine lettuce rather than shaved iceberg, but Cormier is willing to shift to the more traditional construction of a po’ boy if his customers seem unhappy with the current recipe.
So far, patrons seem delighted with the “Newton version” of a po’ boy and with the enthusiastic owner who provides the sandwich treats to them.
“You just gotta be real, sincere and that’s all you can do,” says Cormier. “You gotta show your passion, you gotta share your excitement and that’s it at the end of the day.”