The Legacy Continues
Greg Bruce was in a conversation with his staff during a quiet afternoon at The Mall Deli.
Something about ordering a bunch of crackers.
The conversation ends, and he has this look on his face that is half bewilderment, half amusement.
“You would not believe how many crackers we go through around here,” he said. “It’s nuts.”
The combination of crackers and the Deli’s famous Creamy Italian has become a staple here. A legend. Just one of those Pittsburg things.
A Facebook post asking “How do you creamy your crackers?” got more than 200 comments.
“It wasn’t like this in the 90s,” Bruce said. “Back then, people would get a basket of chips. That was the thing. I’m not sure when crackers and creamy became a thing, but now it’s like our version of chips and salsa.”
“Owning this place was a dream of mine a long time ago.”
Bruce is the new owner of The Mall Deli, the place where he worked for eight years during high school and college. He met his wife Kari there.
“Owning this place was a dream of mine a long time ago,” he said. “I looked into it a few times, but Jim was never ready.”
Jim Martino, a man as humble as he is energetic, finally sold the Deli at the first of this year, 42 years after he and his wife Diane purchased it in December 1979. When they bought the business, it occupied about 1,000 square feet at Meadowbrook Mall and had six employees. Since that time, it has employed up to 70 people and takes up 5,000 square feet on the north side of the mall.
(Full Disclosure: We’ve heard from many people that Jim and Diane prefer to lay low in retirement. Out of respect for their privacy, we did not request an interview for this story.)
“This place is an icon for a reason.”
A little over two years ago, Bruce heard from a friend that Jim was getting ready to sell the Deli if he could find the right person to take it over.
“I shot Jim a note, and we talked about,” Bruce said. “We actually had an informal agreement at one point.”
Then Covid happened.
“We almost changed our minds,” he said. “My wife and I talked about what we would do if we had to close for six weeks. What if that was us? It would be a huge undertaking for us. We had half-way written it off.”
That was Spring 2020. About a year later, Bruce and Jim talked again.
“And here we are,” Bruce said.
It’s still surreal, both for the Bruce family and for Pittsburg. The Mall Deli has a new owner.
Naturally, there are questions. What’s going to happen to the local icon? Will the menu change? Will the place change?
“Look, Jim and Diane left a legacy here at the Deli,” Bruce said. “I’m not looking to change anything. I worked here when it was one hallway. I was here for the first remodel. I know how much work went into building this place up. I have zero intention of making any changes that could affect this place in a negative way.”
In other words, the Deli is staying the Deli.
“This place is an icon for a reason,” Bruce said. “I just want to help carry it forward for Jim and Diane, for the team here, and for Pittsburg.”