Amid the distress, Mike Downs can see a bright side
Mike Downs and his family have owned the Grand Deli, on the corner of Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Street in Carlsbad Village, for 28 years. On August 27, he will close the doors to the popular eatery forever.
595 Grand Avenue, Carlsbad
Downs says the multi-tenant building was sold last December, in the middle of re-negotiating his lease. Without ever meeting the new owner, Downs was told his rent would be going up from $4200 a month to $6000, and up to $7000 next year.
To stay in business, Downs had to raise the prices on his vast menu by 15 percent across the board. He explained the price increase to his customers via signage posted at the cash register. “Most people didn’t mind,” said Downs.
After years in business, weathering the recession, putting up with the city’s road-construction project on his block since April, and the price of eggs doubling, Downs felt the rent increase was the final straw. The reality sank in. He could no longer stay in business.
Once the decision was made months ago, he felt he needed to tell his staff. “I wanted to be up front with them. They would find out sooner or later,” he said. Some quit to find other full-time jobs, including his main cook. The popular breakfast-and-lunch restaurant started having to close earlier during the week and close on Sundays due to not enough staff.
“Change is always weird,” said Downs. “It’s been very emotional and tearful. People I don’t even know come up to me at Costco and give me a hug.”
“It’s just another example of greedy landlords,” said customer Cheryl of Encinitas. “We need more, not less, family places like the Grand Deli.”
Taking the Grand Deli’s place will be the second location of Cardiff by the Sea’s Cicciotti's Trattoria Italiana and Seafood.
“Just what we need, another Italian restaurant,” said customer Lois from Carlsbad — a sarcastic quip referring to the two dozen Italian restaurants from Del Mar to Oceanside along the Coast Highway 101 corridor.
Downs, meanwhile, wants to keep everything positive. He pointed out that Cicciotti’s loaned him one of their chefs to help out until the end.
The Grand Deli will have a final farewell on Friday afternoon, August 28. The $15 menu will be all-you-can-eat. “We’re serving everything we have left,” said Downs.
As for Downs’s future? “I’m going backpacking, by myself, in the Sierras, along the Pacific Crest Trail, from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney.” He also looks forward to spending more time with his son, doing things he never had time to do, like Boy Scout treks.