When owner Will Waxon unlocked the doors to his establishment on Aug. 9, he was greeted by the smiling face of his childhood friend, Chris Bermel.
But Bermel was more than just a friend that Thursday morning -- he was the deli’s first customer since a in July 2011.
The July 17 fire was caused by a electrical malfunction in the ceiling. Waxon was originally unsure if he wanted to rebuild the eatery, but a rash of community support quickly changed his mind.
“I just had to do it,” he said.
That support, both emotional and financial, came from all areas of RVC. The on Oct. 17 at . One hundred percent of the proceeds .
“I have a lot of good friends in town,” Waxon said. “They really supported me, my family, and the deli. It’s been overwhelming.”
Waxon and another childhood friend, Tommy McLaughlin, began the rebuilding process in October. Along with McLaughlin's construction crew, they worked everyday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“When the fire was over, I physically took every piece of debris out of here and loaded it onto a trailer,” Waxon said.
While the interior looks shiny and new, Waxon made sure to include some history. Hanging just inside the doorway are three pictures, each representing a specific time period in the deli’s long life. The eatery has stood on Long Beach Road since 1943.
Bermel may have been the first customer on Aug. 9, but he certainly wasn’t the last. An unexpected Facebook campaign by friends and family turned what was supposed to be a “soft opening” (meaning one without advertising) into a historic one.
“It was the busiest day the deli has had in the 22 years I’ve been here,” Waxon said.
The inside may have looked different to the droves of customers who found their way in on opening day, but the menu stayed almost identical.
“We basically have the same sandwiches,” Waxon said. “We’ve added a couple of paninis and a big burger selection that I didn’t really have before. [We also make] some fancier foods and more dinners than I used to have.”
As he stood admiring his deli, one that he thought he’d lost just one year ago, an air of relief wafted over Waxon. Perhaps the only people happier than the owner and his family are the customers themselves.
“They’re the best in Rockville Centre,” one said while walking out the door, sandwich in hand. “I waited for him. I wouldn’t go to anyone else.”
Waxon said he plans to have a grand re-opening, complete with a ribbon cutting, before the end of August.