Photos & Story by Dave Warner
If you sit for just a few minutes and talk with Maria Salamone, owner of the Happy Waffle on Main Street, you can’t help but smile. This is a person filled with just nothing but happiness and the drive to make her eatery one for everyone. And of course…there are the waffles.
The Happy Waffle has been closed for almost a month because of a building problem that had to be repaired. However, now they’re back and ready to go, but how and why did this Little Falls native leave and then come back 10 years later?
When Salamone was just 17, she left the community to go New York City to study musical theater. She says “you get out into the real world and you find out that musical theater isn’t just for some of us. I wasn’t dedicated enough to it.”
While in NYC, she got into the restaurant scene and really liked it. “It was weird, I just enjoyed it, so I said I’ll do this,” said Salamone. “People spend all their time in college trying to figure out what to do, but I decided to skip that part.”
While in the restaurant industry in NYC, she observed all the things that she thought were right and wrong about the business. Salamone said “I saw people get treated pretty poorly, and I thought, you know what, I want to try this.”
Flash forward 10 years later after her experiences in NYC, for the ‘why’ she decided to come back to Little Falls and give it a try. The drive back each time to visit family was very interesting for her. “I felt like my soul was being crushed in NYC and every time I would come home each week I’d feel better, then I’d go back to the city every weekend and I’d feel terrible,” said Salamone.
For her, she feels like coming back to Little Falls permanently and opening Happy Waffle was the right thing to do, stating “I needed more than the hustle and bustle of city life. Everyone there is connected in their own way from the way that life is down there. It’s go, go, go, make money, make money,” she said.
“It’s about networking with people, not connecting with them,” stated Salamone, which she finds to be very different. “Up here, I get to connect with people on a human level, that’s just interacting, talking, and enjoying each other. Down there, it’s a networking level where it’s like ‘you want something from me and I want something from you so we have to connect.’ I like this connect, instead of that one.”
Up here she thinks people are just people and it’s great. “You just get to talk to people and see how life is going. Down there, everyone just wants something from you…at least that was my experience,” Salamone said.
She felt like she wanted life to be about friendships more than networking, so the decision was easy for her. “Now when people come into Happy Waffle, it’s like this community of people,” said Salamone. “They are just out to support one another instead of ‘I got what I wanted from you and I’ll see you later.'”
It’s the difference between The City and a rural city like Little Falls for her.
Salamone likes making waffles and brunch food but it was the Happy part for her that she really wanted. It was about starting something that anyone and everyone could come in to to feel good. “When you go out to eat, you don’t want to feel bad,” said Salamone. “The reason you go out IS to feel good and not have a bad time or bad experience. It’s to have a good experience, and of course, good food.”
She wanted people to have that experience, and to prove that it was possible with her business. “I didn’t want to just sell food. I wanted to prove that people could feel good through this space and the food that I’m serving and the events that I’ll have,” said Salamone.
As for events, they have open mic night, Karaoke, comedy nights and music with the intent that it will all be original songs and shows. “We’re going to try and do all original things is what we’re going for, so that there is variety around here,” she said.
Salamone said “I think there is a large portion of people in Little Falls that want to experience the arts, which was proven by the Wizard of Oz this summer. That house was packed. People want to watch things, live things, because we don’t always want to watch NetFlix. That’s what we’re going for with this space.”
It’s Happy Waffle Universe now (loosely) which includes the stage in the back. “We all live in one Universe and I want everyone to feel really comfortable when they come in here. Anyone from any walk of life, traveling, local, whatever, whomever, that’s the Universe to me.” said Salamone. “Being creative is the best way to do that, and the stage is that space that allows that to happen.”
When looking at the people who eat there, waffles seem to be for everyone, from younger children to older adults, to the young at heart.
Now that the repairs are over, you can stop in Wednesday through Friday 11am until 7 pm and Saturday and Sunday brunches 8 am until 3 pm. They are attempting to have events every Saturday, and sometimes during the week.
Happy Waffle is located at 598 E Main Street. You can call 315-508-5260 or visit them on Facebook for more information.