In what can only be described as perfect timing, Shelton officially welcomed Hirschbeck's Sports Bar & Grille to the community in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, the evening before Major League Baseball's Opening Day.
The new bar, located in plaza at 882 Bridgeport Ave. in Shelton—a city that's widely known as birthplace and home of —is a family-owned operation from Mark and John Hirschbeck. They're the first brothers in MLB history to umpire at the same time.
Mark worked in the National League from 1987 to 1999, and both major leagues from 2000 until his retirement in 2003, while John worked in the American League from 1984 to 1999 and the major leagues through 2011, according to the baseball stat website Retrosheet.
Mark said he was particularly thankful for Tuesday's ceremony given his brother's ongoing battle with cancer.
"John recently went through chemotherapy so this opening means a lot to me and to him. We're so thankful. I wish he was here right now to be a part of this," Mark said.
Patrons and staff alike say much of the bar's appeal lies in its authenticity. "A lot has to do with people like Mark being a national umpire—being there, seeing things, having stories and real facts about what happened," said Joe Petrucelli shortly before the ribbon-cutting.
The Hirschbecks said they wanted to bring the meaning of a "real" sports bar to the area by adding three 80-inch TVs to the numerous other TVs throughout the restaurant so that missing a game is nearly impossible. And should you get bored with what's currently happening in the sports world, the restaurant walls are lined with signed jerseys and memorabilia, accumulated over 30 years from players and managers. In fact, the first thing you'll notice when walking into Hirschbeck's is the Yankees' home plate from 1984.
"We want it to be more like a museum," Mark Hirschbeck said. "We lived this and everything in here is collected from players I've dealt with. My idea for the future is that we put up pictures and plaques of local kids with their teams to promote high school sports from the Valley."
Jim Barrett, who has worked as a chef in the Valley for 35 years, said Hirschbeck's menu is "upscale bar food" with choices others in Shelton and surrounding towns don't always offer
"Our burgers are selling really well, that's been probably the most popular choice so far," Barrett said. "They are handmade, certified black angus beef and it makes a big difference."
Other menu items include New England clam chowder, rice pudding and shepherd's pie—all also made in-house.
"We want our cuisine to have some style and also be family-friendly so kids can get something they like, too," said Ray Ragaini, the bar's permittee.
Hirschbeck said Shelton was a natural location choice for setting up the business. "I grew up in Stratford and have been a Shelton resident for 14 years. I loved everything [Mayor Mark] Lauretti did for the city tax-wise, so we thought: What better place?"
Hirschbeck's Happy Hour is every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m., with $1.50 off all drinks. They also host weekly entertainment starting on Fridays with a DJ and local bands.