The Pelligra family bought the brown house at 171 Main St. in Monroe in 1972 and soon opened a steakhouse there, naming it The Smithy in honor of their home’s original owner, Jerome Nichols, who was a blacksmith. The restaurant quickly became a community gathering place, as well as a welcoming presence for those driving through town along the busy Route 25 thoroughfare over the past five decades.
A small crowd gathered for an outdoor ceremony to celebrate The Smithy’s 50th anniversary in the Monday afternoon sunshine.
“Three years ago, when Ron and I bought the restaurant, we were proud to take over the stewardship of this historic icon as the restaurant’s third owners,” said Maureen Hanley the current owner. “We had to make sure The Smithy lived on.”
The couple, who bought the restaurant from Frank Pelligra and Steve Scinto, attended the ceremony with their son, R.J., their staff, public officials and some loyal customers and friends.
“We are here to celebrate the previous owners, the Pelligra and Scinto families,” Maureen said, while holding a microphone.
Prior to the purchase, the Hanleys had enjoyed some of their first dates at The Smithy. But their time as its owners has not been without adversity.
“We closed on the sale just two weeks before the pandemic hit,” Maureen said of COVID-19. “Like others, we faced many challenges.”
The Hanleys weathered the ensuing lockdown, and when The Smithy’s doors opened again, many of their loyal patrons came back, keeping their business afloat.
“That we are standing here is an absolute miracle and the result of many prayers and the loyal support of our customers,” Maureen said. “We’ve seen too many restaurants close in this state in the last three years.”
She credited Ron working 14-hour-days, their son R.J. and staff, while expressing gratitude to Patriot Bank, the Small Business Administration and the Business Council of New England for standing by them and keeping their business going through these challenging years.
“We made it through,” Maureen said.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held and The Smithy hosted a party inside the restaurant afterwards.
Among the local dignitaries at the event were First Selectman Ken Kellogg, Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Ray Giovanni, Economic and Community Development Director William Holsworth, Monroe Fire Chief Kevin Catalano and State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28th.
Hwang, who represents Easton and Fairfield, told the Haneys the Monroe delegation of state senators Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, and Rep. Tony Scott, R-Monroe, could not make it, but sent their regards. Hwang presented the couple with a proclamation from the state of Connecticut.
“All I can say is how excited and proud I am to have you both here in the town of Monroe carrying on the wonderful tradition that is The Smithy,” Kellogg said. “This has been a landmark in the town of Monroe for 50 years. It’s part of our history.”
The first selectman said one of his first jobs was as a dishwasher at age 16, so he saw first hand how tough the restaurant business is, with a lot of hard work and long hours.
“So I give you great credit for that,” Kellogg said. “Thank you for continuing the tradition of The Smithy and we wish you nothing but more success — 50 more years plus.”
Hwang, a longtime friend of the Hanleys, marveled at their perseverance in overcoming the lockdown during the pandemic. He said it is critical for people to support their local businesses.
“For a business owner struggling in difficult times, it’s important for us as community leaders to support them as much as we can. They didn’t give up. They showed toughness, resiliency and commitment,” Hwang said of the Hanleys. “But a business isn’t just a labor of love. It’s important for us to support our constituents.”
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