BRATTLEBORO—As Fast Eddie’s celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, owner Eddie Cogliano is planning for the future.
“I’m 65 years old,” Cogliano told The Commons. “I’m not in the greatest health because I work too many hours,” he added.
He wants to make some changes to his popular restaurant, bakery, and ice cream stand to increase its value to his family, his landlords, the shop’s customers, and, when he’s ready to retire, Fast Eddie’s next owners.
Those changes have already begun.
Workers with Brunelle & Son Construction are in the process of building an extension onto Fast Eddie’s that will move the shop’s outdoor seating to an indoor dining area.
This change will allow Fast Eddie’s to remain open year-round.
Although that means Cogliano will have to actively run the shop throughout the fall and winter, it’s worth it, he said. Closing and opening is expensive, and every year, he loses seasoned staff who need all-season work.
“The ones working here now are looking forward to staying,” he said. Cogliano directed a visitor’s attention to colorful paper signs shaped like ice cream cones displayed behind the counter. Each one displayed a handwritten name of one of Fast Eddie’s workers.
The menu will soon expand, too, said Cogliano, to include made-to-order breakfast, specialty buffets throughout the week, and more varieties of fresh seafood.
Ice cream lovers can also enjoy a chilly treat when temperatures plummet. “You want an ice cream sundae in January? You can get it,” said Cogliano.
“The most important part,” he said, “is to make the customer comfortable.”
“I have a lot of fun here. I like talking to people. Someone orders a lobster roll and sits and tells me their life story while they eat it. That’s not gonna happen at McDonald’s,” said Cogliano, who likened Fast Eddie’s to “a speakeasy, but without alcohol. It’s an old-fashioned idea.”
Throwback to a bygone era
Fast Eddie’s is indeed an old-fashioned idea — a roadside joint on a secondary U.S. highway, owned by a local person or family, not an investment bank or a corporation a thousand miles away.
It sits in a building that used to be something else — in this case, the office of a used car lot.
It has a menu with familiar foods — ice cream, burgers, hot dogs — but with regional specialties like frappes and fresh seafood.
And the decor reflects the owners, their family, and their employees.
It is the 180-degree opposite of a banal dining experience test-marketed to the lowest common denominator.
Eddie Cogliano is full of character, and the business reflects the man.
Cogliano, from Canton, Mass., started cooking in summer camps as a young person, then spent 21 years in the Coast Guard.
His grandfather, from Italy, owned a number of different businesses, including restaurants. Cogliano’s parents were accountants and tax attorneys and sometimes balked at his career choice.
“They’d say, ‘You wanna be a cook?!’ But I’m probably making more money than they are,” said Cogliano, chuckling.
Family in Vermont
Cogliano has owned other restaurants and bakeries in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, but this is his first ice cream shop and his first business in Vermont.
He said he moved here because his son talked him into it.
“He missed my doughnuts. He missed the stuff we did together,” said Cogliano. Fast Eddie’s logo is a cartoon “doughnut man” wearing a chef toque.
Eddie’s son, Rich Cogliano, who serves on the West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department, moved to Dummerston because that’s where his wife grew up.
A little over 10 years ago, on a trip to visit Rich, Eddie noticed a “for rent” sign on the used-car dealership where Fast Eddie’s now sits. That sealed the deal: Cogliano could run a restaurant and live near Rich and his family.
Cogliano said the name “Fast Eddie’s” was his kids’ idea: they urged him to name the new enterprise after himself.
Talking to Cogliano for even a moment explains the “fast” part. An enthusiastic, good-natured conversationalist, he can tell a story and listen to one.
“I’ve spent my whole life making relationships,” he said.
Cogliano noted the fresh seafood he serves comes from Boston every other day directly from the docks, not through a distributor. This, he said, is a result of the connections he made back home.
Although he’s doing fine financially, “making money isn’t important to me. You pay your bills and you have fun,” he said.
“Business is up 20 percent this year. We’ve been very successful,” said Cogliano.
He expects construction on the new, indoor seating area to be done by Aug. 1. “This is on the fast track!” Cogliano said of the progress the workers have made.
Fast Eddie’s 10th anniversary, continued success, and the new, year-round schedule indicate “we’ve grown with the community,” he said.
“It’s a nice story,” said Cogliano. “Everyone’s made it work: The property owners, my kids, the help, the customers. I really want to thank everyone who comes here.”