Categorized | Publisher's Letter

It’s good to be among friends

It’s been well over two years since I had been to one of my favorite sandwich spots at the beach. For several years, when my office was in another location, I used to frequent Sun Deli on 3rd St. in Jacksonville Beach. Although it doesn’t have a lot of frills, it does have individuality, unlike the corporate homogeny of sandwich and coffee shop chains such as Panera and Starbucks.

The Sun Deli formula is quite simple: They offer quality sandwiches at a fair price and fast service. When I say fast, I mean really fast service.
Diners are welcome to stay and read the newspaper and mix with beach locals if they want, but they shouldn’t expect to do so in luxury. The hard chairs are purely for function.

I remember when I visited the restaurant for the first time in 1998. Each of three very friendly people warmly greeted me. I later found out they were all family. After just one visit, Barbara—the owner, mom and head cashier—remembered my order. Every visit after that she would ask, “A Gnarly Charlie with no mayo today, Brian?” Since I am a creature of habit, I would nod “yes” almost every time.

(If you have never been to Sun Deli, a “Gnarly Charlie” is named after a local surfing legend. It is a delightful combination of meat, cheeses, and vegetables and is served toasted or cold. Try it; you’ll like it.)
Career and family have put me in other parts of town now, and I don’t get to the Beaches as often as I used to, but I think about Sun Deli from time to time and hoped it was doing well. Our economic climate has been especially tough for our friends in the restaurant business, particularly lunch-only spots like this eatery.

One day last week, business appointments caused me to be in the area of Sun Deli. Although it was only 11 a.m. and not quite lunchtime, I decided to stop in.

To my delight, when I walked in I found the place just as it had always been. Same tables, chairs, and pictures on the wall. I was surprised at the unexpected emotional effect walking into the deli had on me. It instantly brought back great memories of a less complicated time in my life when I was more concerned about beach weather than profit margins. The nostalgia felt good.

As I approached the counter, there was Barbara with a familiar smirk on her face. In her best sarcastic tone she said, “You look a lot like Brian Barquilla, a guy that used to visit our small business all the time.”
I smiled, embarrassed that I had been away for so long. More than two years had passed since I had stood before her. Her next words spoke volumes on how much she cares about me and values my business.
“ Gnarly Charlie with no Mayo today, Brian?”
It made me feel warm in side. What I really I heard was, “Welcome back. We missed you.”

Until next time,

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