Park City’s Main Street Deli, a stalwart since the 1970s, permanently closes
The Main Street Deli closed with numerous other Park City-area businesses in March amid a broad shutdown designed to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, holding plans to reopen when it was deemed to be safe.
A Park City stalwart that for decades provided sustenance to ski bums, office workers and visitors looking for affordability rather than fancy, many saw the restaurant as the option for a short-order breakfast, a grab-and-go lunch or a quick dinner to get back onto the shopping, dining and entertainment strip without missing any action.
Four months after what was planned as a temporary shutdown, though, the ownership of the deli, one of the oldest restaurants in Park City, has instead opted for a permanent closure. It is a loss that will cut especially deep with so many seeking signs of hope at such a difficult time.
The deli retained a unique allure on Main Street for longer than four decades. It opened in 1977 and witnessed the rise of Park City as a top-tier skiing destination in the 1980s and 1990s, the 2002 Winter Olympics and then the boom years that followed the Games.
There were no waiters or waitresses. Orders were placed at the register, the food was cooked steps away and the customers’ names were called out when the meal was ready to be picked up at the counter. It always seemed to draw a loyal breakfast crowd before the lunchtime and dinnertime customers arrived later in the day. The building’s blue and white exterior is immediately recognizable on the streetscape, in photographs and on the canvases of the many artists who have used Main Street as their subject.
It was under the ownership of a husband and wife through most of the years, before Mike and Barb Lindbloom sold the restaurant as they retired. Grace McGowan and Kathryn Babcock acquired the Main Street Deli in 2017, renovating the restaurant and introducing some changes to the menu even as they kept the spirit intact.
In an interview, McGowan called the third year of ownership of a restaurant the “make it or break it” time, meaning the coronavirus struck at a crucial moment for the Main Street Deli. The restaurant wanted to keep prices reasonable and affordable, and the owners did not want to serve lower quality food. There were too many unknowns, though, as the summer-tourism season approached.
“We really couldn’t afford to continue with the uncertainty,” McGowan said.
She also explained that many of the restaurant’s regular customers work on Main Street. The staff at the deli came to know the customers as they returned repeatedly, ordering the same sandwiches made in certain ways.
“You know each other. You care about each other as individuals. You’re not just turning and burning customers out,” McGowan said.
The clientele was lost with the spread of the illness, she said, describing that people were “not running out to get sandwiches and salads.”
There has been widespread concern about sales in Park City since the shutdowns, and the group that represents businesses on or just off Main Street has crafted a months-long plan to reignite the commercial district. A notable step was the introduction of pedestrian days on Main Street on Sundays, allowing more space for social distancing and creating what many see as an attractive, car-free atmosphere.
The success has been difficult to gauge, with some saying sales on Main Street remain sharply lower and others enjoying solid numbers. The crowds on Main Street at some points this summer appeared to be similar in size to what would be expected during the ski season, a positive signal. Still, though, the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents businesses in the Main Street core, in late June said there were upward of 10 businesses under threat of permanent closure based on the continued drop in sales on a year-over-year basis.
The Main Street Deli owners wanted to reopen the restaurant after the shutdown, but there were concerns about the future of sales on Main Street. McGowan said the cancellation of the popular Park Silly Sunday Market this summer and fall based on concern about the illness, as well as the loss of other events this year, influenced the decision to permanently close. The decision was made in early June. The deli employed approximately 10 people through most of a year.
“I think it’s heartbreaking for everyone,” McGowan said, adding, “It’s an institution on Main Street.”
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Park City tightly regulates the number of conventional chain businesses that are allowed on Main Street, but there is space for another chain as a 7-Eleven readies to open in a building toward the middle of the street.