THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
27th August, 2020 0
Growing up in a large family with a mother and sisters who operated a catering business, food has always been a natural thing for Rich ‘Richie’ Kramer - the proud proprietor of Richie Rich’s Downtown Deli, which opened for business 16-months ago at 216 Federal Avenue in Downtown Saginaw at the location of the former Bradley’s Bistro.
“I grew up around kitchens and the Sons of Columbus and the Knights of Italy, so my Mom and sisters and aunts and uncles were always cooking,” he reflects. “My Dad had five brothers so I was always around my cousins and big meals, which not only exposed me to a variety of menu items but also in dealing with volume. I call it ‘Comfort Food’, which I fell in love with and is popular with the people in Saginaw. Comfort Good doesn’t necessarily involve a lot of extravagant ingredients; but it’s definitely based around good quality meats and fresh vegetables and produce.”
While he dreamed of becoming a race car driver or an astronaut as a young child, Richie attended Northwood University and majored in Business Administration & Advertising, focusing these useful dreams into practical exponents such as expeditiously driving catered lunches to clientele and experimenting with different orbits of culinary creativity.
“I always loved marketing and when I went out to eat anywhere my sisters and I would always seek out the delicatessens, so we could pick what we wanted ala carte,” he reflects. “We would basically make our own meals in this manner; and Saginaw never really had anything like that.”
Consequently, Richie opened his first landmark Richie Rich’s Deli in 1993 on Hancock Street in Old Town Saginaw back in its heyday when the strip was booming with live music, entertainment, and culinary wonderment.
“I was full of hope back then and all the salads and soups we featured were passed down family recipes,” he recalls. “We added a few twists, but now that I’m solely involved in this new operation I’ve maintained the same relationship to the food that we prepare, using top quality Boarshead meats and fresh deli breads from Hamilton Home Bakery.”
The original ‘Richie Rich’s Deli’ lasted 11 years until finally closing its doors back in 2004 and during that expanse of time Richie built the business up to four locations throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region - two in Saginaw, one in Bay City, and one in East Tawas. After taking a hiatus, Rich decided to re-open his new Downtown Deli 16-months ago.
“It was a good learning curve over those eleven years and I was excited when I decided to get back into the business,” he states. “I saw what the City of Saginaw was doing with the Farmer’s Market and the Delta College project so decided to get my foot in the door before everybody else decided to come downtown. One of the big differences is that when I first opened those many years ago I had no official knowledge of the restaurant business; but now that I have that knowledge, I’ve been able to shape our menu to focus upon our big sellers.”
Have those popular items changed over the years?
“Actually, it’s funny because they have changed,” responds Rich. “I thought today everything would be turning towards healthier more leaner menu items like white meat turkey and chicken, but our biggest selling items now have turned toward the heavier items like Italian meats and roast beef. People seem to want a big hearty sandwich.”
Rich’s most popular items include The Manhattan (egg salad, cream cheese, cucumber, tomato & bacon served on challah bread); the Brooklyn (ham, salami, capicola, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, onion, with Italian dressing on white bread); the Lincoln Tunnel (turkey, swiss, coleslaw, with red Russian dressing on grilled swirl rye bread); the Long Island (roast beef, turkey, coleslaw with Red Russian dressing on grilled wheat bread) the New York (corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, with Thousand-Island dressing on grilled swirl rye) and the Lady Lip (ham, turkey, Muenster, lettuce, tomato, with Dijon mustard and Italian dressing on a deli roll.)
“All together we have 14 sandwiches on the board and can also make anything you want,” continues Rich. “Egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad we feature every day and we’re also selling a ton of broccoli salad and strawberry spinach salad.”
Since re-opening 16 months ago Richie says that he has been blessed by strong support from Corporate accounts that have helped see him through the restaurant crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since the outbreak I really need to take my hat off and give huge thanks to Covenant Healthcare and Great Lakes Bay Medical as well as The Saginaw Spirit hockey team and Team One Credit Union,” notes Rich. “When the lockdowns first hit no one was on the street and these corporations really stepped up. I wouldn’t be here now it not for them. They helped us tread water to where we’re at now, which is kind of uncertain because I don’t see a lot of vision happening out there right now.”
“Downtown Saginaw is pretty loyal to the downtown businesses,” he continues. “People downtown are coming out to eat, but it’s important for people to realize that for a small business person to have ten extra people walk in a day - this is what will keep us going. Some people think they don’t want to drive downtown for one sandwich, but that one sandwich can make a difference. If you get a couple people to come with you that makes a bigger difference. Whether it’s to my business or somebody else downtown, it all makes a difference.”
While Richie Rich’s Downtown Deli is open for business from 10:30 am - 2:00 pm Monday - Friday, Richie says that he’s hoping to continuously evolve the business as society starts to re-open and a clearer path is set for small businesses. “I would like to maybe start opening on Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights for some Italian dinner items where people could bring their own wine in and enjoy a full Italian dinner menu, but right now this just isn’t feasible.”
“The most challenging thing right now is adjusting to this location and not having the people around like we once did. With the old Deli on the West Side of town we had the court house and more of a hospital connection; and while I think the city has done a good job with cleaning the downtown up, it hasn’t been marketed well enough. There’s not a big main attraction down here other than the Dow Event Center, which is too bad because the water is such a huge resource and I think we’re missing the boat on utilizing it more.”
“I do consider myself fortunate because I am doing something I love,” concludes Richie. “You’ll never get rich in the restaurant business, but the smiles I see on peoples’ faces makes it all worthwhile. I never feel like this is a job so much as it is a passion.”
Richie Rich’s Downtown Deli is located at 216 Federal Ave. in Downtown Saginaw. Hours are Monday - Friday 10:30 am to 2 pm. Curbside, carryout, and FREE delivery to local businesses. They also do catering. Phone 989-759-9531.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)