A Q&A with Renee Veselenak of Main Street Deli
Drive past Navarre’s Main Street Deli between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. weekdays and you’re likely to see a line out the front door.
“It’s a tiny deli. We only have 10 seats, and we can’t fit anyone else in so people wait at the door,” said Renee Veselenak, who opened the deli 10 years ago with her husband, Keith Hancock. “I just love the quaintness of it, and people don’t mind waiting. We are 90 percent carryout.”
The deli, at 531 Main Street N, sells homemade sandwiches, salads, wraps and baked goods. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Here, Veselenak talks about the successful spot.
Q. How did you and Keith decide to open a deli in 2008?
A. “I was in investment sales. He was in first-aid safety medical sales. We were both traveling a lot, crossing paths. We made a lot more money then. (Laughs) We saw in the paper that the (deli) was for sale. It was a turn-key buy, and we decided to go for it. Our plan was to use higher-quality ingredients and do some fun, nontraditional deli items. At first, me and Keith were the only employees.”
Q. Was it successful right away?
A. “It took awhile. I don’t know if Navarre was ready for two young 20-somethings like us. Slowly but surely, they accepted us, and now we play a huge part in the community.”
Q. Do you have a lot of regular customers?
A. “We have two gentlemen who have never missed a day here in 10 years, Dave and Moe. We have the working construction guys—we welcome muddy boots. We have a few CEOs from places around here. We have widowed women who don’t want to cook. We’re starting to get a younger clientele, probably due to the millennials that we’ve hired. We have a 4-year-old customer named Alex who asked us to collect pop tabs for the Akron Children’s Hospital.”
Q. What is your most popular menu item?
A. “Our meatloaf dinners and meatloaf sandwiches. The dinner with meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and a Nickles roll is $6. We’re very affordable. We had a contest for customers to create different things to put on the meatloaf sandwich. We’re doing one now with meatloaf, bacon, mac and cheese and Sriracha mayo.”
Q. Tell me more about your food.
A. “It’s all really, really good. We’re very picky. All of our soups are scratch made. We do a cheeseburger soup, potato soup, black bean, white chicken chili. We have subs and wraps. The thing with our salads is everything is fresh; nothing has been packaged. Our romaine comes in off the roots. We wash it and chill it. We have a whole bakery also. When we started, it was just some cookies and cakes to accompany your lunch. In 2016, I started offering bakery items to other restaurants and suppliers.”
Q. It sounds like you enjoy your job.
A. “We enjoy the atmosphere. It’s small, it’s quaint and it’s family. Our building was built in the early ’30s. It was the original Agnes Grocery store. We have 90-year-olds who can remember coming in here as a kid. Today, everybody is coming in talking about the Cavs. It’s like a bar without alcohol. (Laughs) Sometimes, I think we need it.”