Ernst Turnier decided he wanted to operate his own business in the town he grew up in at 23 years old. He and his father began looking for a space in 2009 and settled on 115 Main St., which would become Cafe Turnier.
Turnier and his father chose the location together, spent a year remodeling and now, he operates the cafe at 26-years-old pretty much on his own.
"We've grown tremendously after starting from scratch," said Turnier, sitting at one of the tables in his cafe during a free moment. "It took some time to remodel and this place wasn't known for being a restaurant, so we had to wait for word to spread, but looking at where we are now from where we started, we've been able to grow so much in this community."
Turnier is soft-spoken and eloquent, with a great memory and a rapport with each of his customers. He remembers details from conversations with people he had months earlier. Reviews of the atmosphere and service are high across the board.
"I've been coming here almost every day for about a year, year-and-a-half," said Stephen Gangi, who was enjoying an Italian melt and watching the news on his lunch break. "Ernst is a good cook, he takes care of his customers, doesn't try to squeeze money out of them, but I think he makes it back in good will."
And Turnier should have good will to spare. Despite being a fairly new small business, he finds time and resources to donate back to the community he's lived in his whole life whenever he can.
"I try to do what I can. I donate food to the Norwalk High School football team for their pasta parties," Turnier said. "I donate to the Lower Fairfield County Food Bank. Right now, through the holidays, we're running a promotion collecting donations for Ability Beyond Disability."
He said the decision to be involved with charitable organizations or with the kids in his town isn't a difficult one, it's just the right one. Particularly with Ability Beyond Disability, which helps educate individuals with many types of disabilities and teach them life skills and assists with job placement. Turnier said he can't help but think of how the economy has made life difficult for everyone.
"I think of how hard it is for us, especially around the holidays, to make a living, to pay the bills," Turnier said. "Then I think of someone with even a slight learning disability. It wasn't even a question to get involved."
And, in addition to all of the positive influences Turnier has had on the community, the food is great, too. He makes delicious sandwiches and whole meals and the coffee is some of the best in the city. And he does it all with some of the best prices in the city.
"I want to offer customers that personal experience. And I'm a big foodie, but sometimes you've got to save up to go somewhere, and then you know you can't visit that place again for a while," Turnier said. "I wanted to create a place where customers willingly come back."
So far, mission accomplished.