FAIRFIELD, Conn -- For Charly Sahlia, owner of Upper Crust Bakery and Cafe in Darien, the decision to leave his job on Wall Street to open a small business close to home was a no-brainer.
"My last position was a COO of a hedge fund in New York City," said Sahlia. "In 2010, my two partners and I decided to close the business, so I had to figure out what my next move was."
Sahlia, a securities lawyer and a Rowayton resident, knew he could find a similar job in Manhattan. However, he wanted to spend more time with his wife, a local physician and two young children, so in 2010, Sahlia opened an office in Darien where he provided legal and compliance services to small investment managers. Coincidentally, his storefront was above the Post Road location of Upper Crust Bagles, a popular, family-owned deli.
"Upper Crust Bagels was the only good place to get a bagel around here," said Sahlia. "In mid-2010, the owner was thinking of closing and I knew I couldn't let that happen."
Sahlia convinced the previous owner of Upper Crust Bagels to bring him on as a silent partner and help renovate the rundown bagel shop. After a short construction delay, the store opened with a fresh look and a new name: Upper Crust Bakery and Cafe, also known as UCBC. Natural wood floors replaced the tired linoleum; whitewashed walls were decorated with the works of local artists, a play area for children opened, as did a new, inviting storefront.
That arrangement only lasted a couple of months before the previous owner stepped down and gave full ownership of the Cafe to Sahlia. "After I became the full-time owner, I knew I wanted to make some changes to cater to kids and mothers in this community," said Sahlia.
UCBC has been a strong supporter of the Darien community, from sponsoring Pop Warner and Little League teams to donating food to area schools and helping support organizations and fundraisers. The bakery’s support has not been overlooked as dozens of thank-you notes and family photos line the store’s walls.
"I’ve lived in this area since 2001 and I really never knew anyone because I was never around," said Sahlia, who has expanded UCBC and its local catering business. "Opening the bakery allowed me to connect with neighbors, friends and the people that I see every day."
Darien Rowayton Bank supports Upper Crust Bakery and Cafe and their community efforts. For more information about Darien Rowayton Bank, click here.