After 28 years in the Owings Mills shopping center Valley Village, Lenny’s Deli owner Alan Smith thought it was time for a facelift.
The quality of the food hasn’t wav-ered, the sandwiches are still thick, and customers are still loyal, but Smith said he felt it was time for his deli to get an updated look.
The remodel, which is ongoing, includes a new logo with a light blue color scheme, beige brick walls and a completely redone dining room. What once looked like a laid-back cafeteria-style room now looks like a casual restaurant with new wooden tables and chairs and a new hardwood floor.
“It’s always positive when someone invests in Owings Mills and its future,” said Jonathan Schwartz, senior council assistant to Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond. “Lenny’s has been a longtime staple of the community and a go-to place for breakfast or lunch.”
In addition to beautifying the restaurant, the dining room was redesigned with two aisles to allow an easier flow of customers, something Smith said was a long time coming.
The Baltimore Jewish Times caught up with Smith to hear more about the remodel and how the business has changed over the years.
JT: What does the remodel entail?
Smith: It’s a drastic change in the dining room. We went to electronic menu boards, replaced all the furniture, put in larger tables to accommodate parties. It’s much more comfortable.
Has the menu changed at all?
We took out our salad bar, and now we make everything to order. We have all these different kinds of salads now that we make fresh: chicken, salmon.
When did the renovation start, and how much work is left?
We started planning it last summer, and we didn’t want to close, so we had to do all the work after hours. It started around March, and we still have plans to redo bathrooms and anything else [that has] the old color scheme. The bathrooms will be next.
Why did you decide to remodel?
We’ve been here 28 years now. … It just needed a facelift. … There is a lot of competition, lots of new places. It just needed to be a little revitalized.
How has the deli business changed over the years?
Strictly deli is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The problem is you can go to Subway and get a five-dollar Footlong, but if you want to get the quality meats that delis in this area use … we’re not willing to lower our quality for the sake of price.
You’re going pay a little more because you’re getting much better quality meat and thicker sandwiches. For us, we still want to do it. We do breakfast all day and people love that. We have more than just corned beef.
In addition to your focus on the customer, you also try to keep your employees happy. Talk about that?
Anytime an employee has been with us 15 consecutive years, they get a cruise for two and $500 spending money. We’ve sent six people. If somebody can tolerate me for 15 years, it’s the least I can do. That’s a long time to work at one job, and I want to do something [for them].
Miller’s Eyes Third Location
Miller’s Delicatessen, a staple of the Pikesville community for more than 40 years, will open its third location, in Lutherville-Timonium, in about a month.
The deli, known for its corned beef, overstuffed sandwiches and homemade laktes, knishes and coddies, opened a second location in June on West Chesapeake Avenue in Towson. The newest location will be in the Padonia Village Shopping Center, at the corner of York and Padonia roads.
“Our customer base has expanded to cross almost every imaginable boundary, be it nationality, race and/or religion,” co-owner Jeff Karlin said in a statement. “Our Pikesville store is, in my opinion, the true definition of a neighborhood establishment, and we look to continue that strength and characteristic as we expand to Towson, Timonium and wherever else the ‘best kettle cooked corned beef’ may take us.”
Karlin, a restaurateur, purchased the Pikesville deli in April 2010 with entrepreneur and local Jewish communal volunteer Mark Neumann.
In three-and-a-half years, the two have seen changes in the deli landscape.
“We have seen a tremendous shift to the restaurant side and away from the sliced meats at the counter,” Karlin said. “The younger generation, it seems, doesn’t [appreciate] the Ma and Pa deli counters as much as past generations.”
The owners look forward to feeding hungry customers in a new market.
“While there is a great deal of competition, we believe that there is a need and a desire for our high-quality products and 40-plus-year-old recipes,” Karlin said.