Boettcher, who took over the restaurant in 1971, says, "It's just time to leave. Time to try something else." Part of the reason for the sale, he says, is the recent glut of new restaurants and Richmonders' fickle allegiance to independent local eateries. "If you value small businesses, and if you value Carytown," he says, "then you really need to spend your money in those kinds of operations."
Cheap breakfasts and genuine New-York-style subs have made the New York Deli a longtime favorite of Richmond residents. Stacks of gourmet chocolates line the front counter, a sweet treat after chowing on corned beef.
"I've been going there 30 years, I guess," Virginia Lewis says. "We liked to go there for breakfast and sit there with our newspapers." Lewis' husband, Andrew mathematics chair at Virginia Commonwealth University and son of Sydney and Frances Lewis of Best Products fame always ordered lox and eggs. She would get a cheese omelet "and lots of bagels."
The deli's most famous menu item is the Sailor (a stack of pastrami topped with melted Swiss cheese and a kosher hot dog) that Boettcher says was invented there in 1943. A man returning from service in World War II invented the odd combination himself and always ordered it. After a while, staff just began to call it "the Sailor's sandwich."
The deli counts among its fans many well-known Richmonders, such as Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, Village Person Felipe Rose and members of the City Council (including former councilman Chuck Richardson, who likes his Sailors made light on the pastrami, with an unorthodox dollop of mayonnaise).
"This was a family business, and I've gotten close with a lot of our steady customers here, who I will truly miss," says Sheila Nasir, who has worked at the deli for more than 11 years. "It's just unbelievable that this time has come." Melissa Scott Sinclair
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