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New Owners Breathe New Life Into The Pushcart Cafe

Jul 13, 2017 06:32AM ● By Bill Gilman
It could be argued that no opening of a Tewksbury business has been greeted with greater excitement than the opening of The Pushcart Cafe, on May 18.
How much excitement?
"We had a women give birth on opening day," said co-owner Tracey Holden, "Right after eating my Buffalo Chicken, her water broke right in the restaurant. She sent us photos of the baby."
While things haven't reached THAT level of excitement since, the enthusiasm of diners for the fresh, delicious and healthy options on The Pushcart menu hasn't waned since it re-opened two months ago at 1777 Main St.
For two decades, The Pushcart Cafe was the "go-to" spot in town for fans of healthy eating choices, famous for its soups and amazing salad bar.
But the popular eatery closed two years ago after sustaining heavy damage in a fire. Despite the best efforts, owner Paul Tucceri was not able to re-open.
Enter Holden and business partner Julann Briggs.
Briggs is the niece of Paul Tucceri had worked at The Pushcart in the past.
Last October, the women (whose husbands are cousins) made the decision to bring The Pushcart back to life.Though actually, Holden confessed, it was something of a unilateral decision.
"Julanne was away at a conference and I called her and told her we were doing it," she said with a laugh.
"I was born and raised in Tewksbury. I grew up knowing the Pushcart and friends of mine in high school worked for Paul. Now, I have four kids and there's nothing healthy in town to buy, for food. And (The Pushcart) was just such a big part of Tewksbury that we couldn't let it go."
After months of conversations/negotiations with Stop and Shop (owners of the Plaza) and town officials, Briggs and Holden signed the lease and got their permit to start site work on Jan. 19. Then the real work began. Four months of almost continual work to renovate the restaurant, pass inspections and get ready to open the doors for business.
"The fire wasn't really the issue, it was the water damage," said Holden, who had worked for The Ninety-Nine Restaurant and Pub for several years. "We had a lot of water damage to repair, we also had to re-do electrical, the plumbing and all the walls and ceilings. We had to rip up the floor, right to the bare concrete. It was quite a bit of work."
The Tucceri family helped Holden and Briggs get up and running. According to Holden, Sue Tucceri, Paul's wife, helped train new staff, while some of the other people hired had worked for The Pushcart previously/ Meanwhile, Paul and Sue's son, Jeff Tucceri, taught Holden all the soup recipes so popular with customers for all those years.
"We didn't want to change any of the recipes," said Holden. "The only thing we wanted to change was the (interior) space. There was nothing broken with the recipes."
All of which has provided a sense of familiarity and continuity for longtime fans of the restaurant.
The overall menu hasn't been changed. The restaurant features a variety of homemade soups and sandwiches, as well as healthy dinner options. But the centerpiece, as it always has been, is a tremendous salad bar.
The Pushcart, as a healthy dining hot spot, is right up the alley of Briggs, who works professionally as a health and wellness educator and a nutrition/fitness coach.
"Basically, I like people to heal through food," she said, "We have all these nice raw fruits and vegetables, which pretty much does the trick if you know how to utilize them properly."
To that end, she and Holden would like to eventually offer nutrition education and meal planning classes on Sundays, when the restaurant is otherwise closed.
However, they admit they may also be adding some "less nutritious" items to the menu down the road, such as mac and cheese dishes, paninis and quesadillas.
"You like to indulge every once in a while," said Briggs.
The Pushcart Cafe is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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