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Continued: A deli's demise: Q&A with Rye Deli owner David Weinstein

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 17, 2014 - 12:36 PM

A: I enjoyed that a lot. I tried to know how to do every job here; I felt that it was necessary. Ultimately, this is all on my shoulders. It’s obviously a challenge on your time. I usually worked six days a week, and often seven days a week. Even then, restaurants are so all-consuming that it never feels like you’re totally off.

 

Q: You’re a lawyer and also worked in commercial real estate development. Are there any similarities between those vocations and owning a restaurant?

A: It’s probably a comparable level of stress [laughs]. But completely different. I haven’t ever had a boring day here, I can say that. It can be fun and it can be terrifying, but it’s never boring.

 

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’m not sure. I’m figuring out the next step for the building.

 

Q: The restaurant’s rocky opening — the word slammed doesn’t even begin to cover it — inspired legions of disappointed customers to turn to social media and let it rip. What was that like?

A: That was hard. It was an emotional roller coaster. Right out of the gate it was incredibly gratifying to see so many people take such an interest in our restaurant, and to see that pent-up demand for this kind of food. That was thrilling. Then the chef’s eyes got as big as dinner plates and he said, “We’re going to run out of food.” We went from euphoria to damage control. People were saying, “How can you run out of corned beef?” When you explain that we’re a scratch kitchen, and that it takes five days to prepare our corned beef, well, that doesn’t work. It was really hard to recover from that. We weren’t prepared for that kind of business.

 

Q: Along with that Yelp Nation avalanche, reviews from several critics could have sent the restaurant to a Level 1 trauma center. How did you react to those criticisms?

A: It was a level of venom that I find surprising. In a perverse way, I guess it shows just how passionate people are when it comes to this kind of food. But what was most gratifying was all the loyalty that our customers showed us. There are a lot of people who loved us, and the outpouring of sadness and support has been gratifying. We became part of people’s lives, and that only makes it more heartbreaking to close. We’re proud of what we accomplished. It’s a hard thing to do, closing the restaurant. We never expected to do it.

 

Q: Any lessons you’d care to share for the next brave soul who gets into the deli business?

A: Obviously, I can’t overstate the importance of having a strong opening. Assume that you’re going to be extremely busy, and be ready for it. Having a great staff is the most important thing. Many on our staff grew into leadership roles, and that was really gratifying. I’m gratified by the sense of community and friendship, and I regret that we’re not going to see that continue.

 

Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib

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  • A customer orders lunch at the front counter at Rye, a deli in the Lowry Hill neighborhood.

  • Closing sign from Rye Deli.

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