Story by Bavani, Photos by Jim Peterson
Seven years ago, I walked through the doors of Off Broadway Deli to satisfy a pregnancy craving for fried chicken, a craving I admit has never quite gone away. The best chicken in town is not the only reason that keeps me going back. It is also the warmth exuded by Stephanie Robertson-Nolind and her crew, which consists primarily of Kasey Robertson-Hammond, her sister, and Amber Hill-Wolfe, Kasey’s childhood friend. Stephanie comments, “We have known Amber forever.” Stepping into the Deli each time, my head is filled with the lyrics from the theme song from the sitcom Cheers, “Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name!”
Off Broadway Deli is a family-owned, family-loved, and family-operated shop. Its story began when Stephanie embarked on her first job there when it was known as Hugo’s Deli in 1995. Kasey joined her in 1997 and Amber in 2006. In 2006, the shop was put up for sale. Stephanie and her mother, Diane Robertson, jumped at this opportunity and found themselves the proud new owners. While Diane is not involved in the day-to-day running of the deli, she plays a key role in monitoring and maintaining the finances. Paying the royalty fees for the original name of the deli proved to be too costly, and in 2009, the deli was christened Broadway Deli after its location on Broadway Avenue. Realizing that their location wasn’t giving them the exposure they needed and deserved, they decided to move to Federal Way three years ago, which Diane says, “was overdue and the best decision” they made. Thus, Off Broadway Deli was born.
Off Broadway Deli isn’t your run-of-the-mill sandwich shop. It offers a tempting selection of sandwiches made with fresh ingredients. Some of the popular ones include the Hot Broad, Grinder, Porkman, Larry, Fat Head, and Poor Boy. My favorite would have to be the Rachael sandwich, consisting of corned beef, coleslaw, mayo, and Swiss cheese on rye. The Deli keeps up with its customers’ requests and has added a variety of sandwiches over the years. Other delights include fried chicken, fries, house made soups, and salads. Stephanie believes in supporting locally owned businesses and includes delectable desserts from Sugar Whipped on the menu. Wanting to bring the Deli to the community, boxed lunches, sandwich trays, and catering are also offered.
Stephanie says fondly, “What makes this place work is my crew and my customers. Most of my customers are like family and I couldn’t do it without them.” This has been especially evident since Kasey was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in July last year. While Kasey and her family have been dealing with this devastating experience, they are touched beyond words at how “customers have gone above and beyond with their support, care, and concern.”
Stephanie shares, “It amazes me how many people you can touch, how many lives Kasey has touched. It has shown me how much life means. Kasey has been a trooper and has maybe taken 3 weeks off in total. She has kept working despite the surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy.” This is a testament to Kasey’s positivity, hardworking nature, and commitment to the Deli.
Off Broadway Deli’s journey has been a learning experience for the Robertsons, one filled with ups and downs. Diane confesses, “We didn’t have any idea what we were getting into. It probably wasn’t a smart business move but we just jumped in. I would advise anyone getting into this business to research. To make sure you know what your costs are going to be. Taxes, payroll, employment, licenses, fees, and advertising are just some of the costs.” Diane shares that the idea behind the Deli was for it to be her retirement plan. Stephanie teases her mother, “You’ll be part of the crew one day too!”
Stephanie advises, “Just know how much work you will have as the owner. It will take time away from your family. You have to be dedicated. I worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week when I first started. Don’t go into it thinking you are going to make money at first. Make sure your employees are happy. I have been lucky. These girls are wonderful.”
Visit the Deli on any day and you’ll find yourself filled with a sense of home and greeted with a hearty kindness. With genuineness and simplicity, Stephanie concludes, “I love my business and my customers. I have seen children growing up, including yours. If I don’t see someone for a while, I feel like I have to call. One little old lady doesn’t have any family, so I call her. The amount of people who have compassion is amazing to me. It just shows me how amazing people really are.”
Ultimately, Off Broadway Deli is not only about that special something created to satisfy your taste buds. It has the added flavor of being served with graciousness.
Off Broadway Deli
3369 S Federal Way