Local Business Spotlight

"The Deli" is Still Family

Updated 1 year ago David Stone
Bread & Butter Market
Bread & Butter Market
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

This the first in a series of articles highlighting Roosevelt Island businesses.

When the Tram celebrated it fortieth birthday, a ceremony and news reports told its story, but another Roosevelt Island institution turned forty this year too. More quietly, but with equal resilience, “The Deli” became officially middle-aged. 

And like the Tram, it thrives under new management.

For decades, it was M&D Deli, the place with the watchful cat, where fresh coffee waited a few steps from the Red Bus shelter. You were as likely to find Buddy Hackett in line with you as you might the neighbor you never ran into anywhere else. 

Spurred by Hudson/Related’s push to upgrade Main Street retail, this nexus that quietly claims its place as a center of our community’s gravity evolved into Bread & Butter Market, a more apt name for a business with so much filling up its shelves.

As Roosevelt Islanders, we like to think of ourselves as an extended family connected through many shared interests and lifestyles. Bread & Butter has been able to grow and change with us because it is a family business, handed down from one generation to the next, changing and adjusting with us as Island population grew ten-fold.

It’s one thing to sell products customers need. It’s another to be a place so well liked and familiar it has a nickname: for generations of Roosevelt Islanders, it's jsut “The Deli.” 

Trust and Value

No matter what the sign says, this store will always be so much a part of our daily routines that its nickname will stick.

Roosevelt Island, like the rest of New York, runs on coffee. It’s hard to find a time when The Deli’s self-serve machines aren’t busy. That may be what brings you in the door, the first time. What brings you back is more likely to be the smartly designed availability of products you use every day.

While other small markets blur their convenience store identities, Bread & Butter demonstrates why the idea is brilliant when it works.

Well stocked aisles offer varieties of choice in coffee, cereals, canned goods and beverages. Larger, big name retailers nearby often have less choice and at higher prices. And at this gem of convenience, the laundry detergent, juice or milk you want is a few steps away, not so far you might need a guide to find your way back to your cart.

After Ammar Awawdeh shepherded The Deli into its new incarnation as Bread & Butter Market, the store retained its friendliness, a marked difference from its larger competitors. You can’t put enough value on having a place that resonates with its neighborhood the way the corner stores many of us grew up with did.

You’ll hear customers greeted by name and light personal conversations passing across the counter as customers check out. Clerks don’t just say, “Thank you,” they add, “See you later,” because they know they will.

Why We Like Our Deli, Whatever It’s Called

Eventually, it will be Bread & Butter to us as the old M&D name fades. Newcomers and next generations will nevertheless learn to value the standards set here, just as they flock to the reliability and convenience of the Tram, which is actually a few months younger.

The Deli started with us on Roosevelt Island. It was there when the new buildings went up, modern Red Buses were phased in, RIOC transitioned through administrations and cars began filling the once quieter street. It was there through hurricanes and other disasters, and it was even there when the Mets last won a World Series. 

Through four decades, we have relied on The Deli. The Deli has relied on us.

Bread & Butter Market is part of our extended family, a remarkable achievement in trust and reliability through all the changes as our community grew into one much like and, in significant ways, very different from anything the early planners envisioned.

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