Carrie Schmelkin writes in the New Canaan Advertiser that a group of men meet every morning at Dunkin’ Donuts in New Canaan, CT for their very own “Breakfast Club.”
The scene is reminiscent of a popular “Friends” episode — the one in which Ross and Chandler walk into the Central Perk coffee shop and find that after two years, their usual hangout spot on the couch has been taken over by a group of new coffee-goers. And just like Chandler and Ross, when New Canaan’s Anthony Ruggiero sees that his coveted seat at Dunkin’ Donuts on Elm Street is taken by someone else, Ruggiero is ready to fight for the prime spot — the table in the front that faces out to the whole store.
“I walk in, and I just look at the person and they get up and they leave,” Ruggiero said, with a laugh.
“No words are necessary,” he said.
The perk of being able to “call dibs” on his Dunkin’ Donuts territory is the result of the New Canaan man coming to the shop every morning for the past 15 years to have coffee with a group of locals, mostly retired men, though members have ranged in age from two to 88.
The group, the Next Station to Heaven’s very own “Breakfast Club,” meets every morning from 8:30 to 10, and on a good day as many as 20 men will take up the front few tables.
“This is the best way to start your morning,” Len Paglialunga, an eight-year member of the group, told the Advertiser Monday. “We laugh; we see everybody — you can’t kick your day off better than that.”
While some of the veteran Dunkin’ Donuts-goers have been visiting the spot since it was a barber shop in the ‘50s, others are new to the group.
But whenever someone wants to become a “regular,” members welcome them with a light-hearted “initiation process” and remind newcomers that the group’s “mission” is to enjoy coffee with friends, participate in witty banter and introduce themselves to all Dunkin’ Donuts customers.
“I’m still working on it,” John Buzzeo said, with a laugh, of his trying to become a regular member.
For those able to come every day, even Saturdays and Sundays, the group enjoys swapping jokes, discussing politics and offering a friendly ‘hello’ to anyone who walks through the door — particularly local ladies.
“Some people are willing to sit down right away, some take weeks and months to relax and sit down with us,” Paglialunga said, with a smile. “After they do sit down with us, though, everybody has a great story.”
Resident Carol Howe said she first got to know the group of men three years ago.
“I would drive my son to Greenwich to school every morning and then come and get my coffee and all the guys started talking to my son, Austin, first,” she said.
Three years later, Howe has become a group “floater,” she joked, and has gotten to know the guys so well that she attends their Christmas parties and birthday celebrations.
Aside from celebrating at Dunkin’ Donuts when a holiday or birthday approaches, the group — which can be as big as 30 to 40 residents — often gets together at each other’s houses to commemorate an occasion.
The Dunkin’ Donuts staff joins in on celebrations as the men, and few women, have become fixtures.
“They are part of our family, too,” Assistant Manger Eli Martinez told the Advertiser. “When they don’t come, we miss them.”
Martinez, who has worked in other Dunkin’ Donuts, said he has never observed a crowd convene as regularly as the group in New Canaan.
“I have never seen this before,” he said. “We know their orders; they don’t even have to order.”
Read more at: New Canaan Advertiser