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Business of the Month: Sam’s Deli, 275 West 4th Street

Your input is needed! Today we feature our latest Business of the Month — help us to select the next. Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village, or NoHo: click here to nominate your favorite. Want to help support small businesses? Share this post with friends.

Deli is short for ’delicatessen,’ with a linguistic history you’ll appreciate.  A truly New York thing, the name now connotes a small neighborhood or community convenience shop with food, utterly local and yet universally welcoming. There are a great many delis in New York City, and everyone has a favorite.  We are missing many a local shop these days, and would like to recognize all of them. The mainstays that are able to be open serve an important purpose of familiarity and continuity, not to mention offering essential items and favorite foods — and essential human connection and remembrance of how you like your coffee or tea. And, to be honest, there are not many old school delis left in the West Village. That makes this one, open in this time of great need, so important. Family-owned Sam’s Deli at 275 West 4th Street between Perry and West 11th Streets is our April 2020 Business of the Month.

Owned and operated by three cousins of Palestinian descent for over ten years, Sam’s Deli has been in the family for even longer than that. They were nominated for this recognition by local resident Tom, of The Love Child, another Business of the Month awardee, who shared:

Rain, shine, early morning, late night, and now even through the COVID-19 pandemic, the hardworking team at Sam’s Deli are always there for our neighborhood with a smile, a fist bump (or now, a socially-distant wave), the latest news on the block, and a coffee/banana/bacon-egg-and-cheese to start the day. New Yorkers know how essential our local bodegas are – for “emergencies” of all sorts (like a late night snack or cream for the coffee that’s already cooling on your counter) and for actual emergencies (like getting a key to a friend when you’re already late for the Amtrak or picking up a mousetrap or drain cleaner in the middle of the night), and the perennial good cheer, the eyes on the block, and the countless invaluable services that the Sam’s family provides everyday make Sam’s among the most “essential” of businesses in my view, and we couldn’t be more thankful to have them around the corner. 

Like any real deli, they have to make sandwiches, and they up it up one and even have a Soup of the Day. The food fare is so good, NYEater critic Robert Sietsema included this cozy shop in his series exploring a favorite New York City food, the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. Although — plot twist — he ordered bologna on it!  You can have it without meat of course. He wrote in Eater NY:

My love of bologna led me one day to try a substitution in the classic breakfast sandwich at Sam’s Deli, getting rid of my usual sage sausage and replacing it with bologna. I asked the deli guy to butter the roll but eventually decided that mayo is a better choice, even on a warm sandwich. I also asked the sandwich maker to heat the bologna on the griddle, so that it gradually softened and then melted the American cheese. The sandwich ($6) was breakfast bliss, and I urge you to try it with your own favorite luncheon meat. 

Not the boloney sandwich, but an example of Sam’s Delhi’s fare.

Of course they carry daily essentials, especially nowadays. No need to be on a long line. Although a small, local store, they have rave reviews on all the important platforms. One reviewer Gabriel noted:

…it’s nice to encounter a throwback to the times of honest neighborhood establishments.  Sammy & Co run a solid deli, with delicious sandwiches, delectable cup-a-joe coffee, and every ancillary odd and/or end you may have need of: toothpaste, kitty litter, beer, ammo, Tylenol, and staples.

We got to talk to Sam, and who says he loves Greenwich Village and its residents — the neighborhood is nice and quiet, and the people are nice, he says. And they are open to serve the community, he says — that is their focus. If there is an item you want but don’t have, they strive to get it. And what is one of the more notable orders? Sam pondered a moment and replied, “Did you ever hear of a bacon, cream cheese and jelly?” On a bagel, no less? No, we had not heard of that, but they accommodate, day or night!

Such a neighborhood staple has not gone unnoticed. They were included in an important piece in The New York Review of Books piece by Susannah Jacob, who wrote:

At Sam’s Deli on West 4th Street, Ali Alshella has worked behind the counter and helped run the store for ten years. Sam’s is a holdout from a past era, supplying groceries to many of the neighborhood’s longest residents.

We contacted her directly and she kindly shared this:
When I lived in the West Village Sam’s was a one-stop shop for cash to pay for dinner at Tartine down the street, bananas, hazelnut coffee with skim milk, emergency Twizzlers, cat food, human conversation, and the likeliest place to encounter true neighborhood regulars.
And her sister Aliza Jacob added:
“This whole time, they’ve been fully stocked on affordable toilet paper, masks, gloves, cereal, snacks and chocolate ice cream. Not all heroes wear capes, but they do work at Sam’s Deli.”
And from a longtime West Village resident and Susannah’s former roommate, Elizabeth Petit: 
“What a treat to hear others appreciate Sam’s deli…a steady business run by caring neighbors – and they are neighbors – is a blessing in just the regular crises of life.  When I was gone from the neighborhood for stretches at a time out of town taking care of my dad, they always welcomed me back.  “How are you doing?  You’ve been away?”  They noticed! When I told them I was helping out my family in Boston, they really connected with me on how important it is. They have a “hello” for everyone. They are the Cheers bar of the neighborhood with great egg sandwiches, toilet paper and ice cream….Places like Sam’s make the city less lonely.  Do I love them?  Yes.”

And, apparently from Instagram, actress and activist Liv Tylor visited the shop one Halloween some time ago, with a shark in tow.

Village Preservation has been honoring, promoting, and advocating for small businesses as part of our mission. The current circumstances show how important these neighborhood anchors are now more than ever. That is why Sam’s Deli, now open to locals and visitors and practicing spatial distancing and social bridging is taking orders online or by phone at 212 777 3841,  is our April Business of the Month.

What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc

And here is a handy map of all of our Businesses of the Month:

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