Chris D’Andrea grew up working in his family’s deli in New York. So when his father invited him to join a new venture in North Carolina, D’Andrea jumped at the opportunity.
The father-son duo opened a deli in Holly Springs a year ago, but the reception in the South was not what they expected.
“It did not go as well as we planned,” D’Andrea said.
Eventually, his father returned to New York and sold the shop to his son. D’Andrea, 23, said the town mayor has told him he is the youngest business owner in Holly Springs.
Recently, D’Andrea rebranded the eatery as D’Andrea’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop & Grill.
“I put together a system after my dad left,” he said. “People here aren’t used to delis. They wanted sandwiches, and if that’s what they want, then that’s what we will give them.”
D’Andrea has a degree in business management from Seton Hall University in New Jersey and a lifetime of restaurant experience, including five years with celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Now he says he is adapting to the expectations of locals.
“In New York, when you go into a deli you have to know what you want,” he said.
He quickly discovered that customers here want some time to decide, so he set up a stand of menus a few feet back from the counter.
Although D’Andrea’s is no longer exclusively a deli, it retains its status as a Boar’s Head Deli of Distinction.
“As far as cold cuts, I haven’t found anything else of that quality,” D’Andrea said. “We have better sandwiches, hands down, than the grocery store. We put more ounces of meat on a sandwich. I put a lot of creativity into putting the menu together.”
D’Andrea thinks his customer service gives him the edge over the national chains surrounding him.
“I believe in customer service,” he said. “I stand at the register every single day and talk to every customer. When someone tells me they are a first-timer, I give them a free drink.”
He also has orders ready to pick up for those who call ahead.
A small bar stocked with beer and wine and a new salad bar are popular additions, he said. “I’m working on getting local taps.”
In addition to growing his catering business, he also offers delivery as far away as Raleigh.
“Where else can you get a burger delivered?” he asked. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
D’Andrea said the less frantic lifestyle of the South is growing on him.
“It’s not slow-paced in the restaurant, but when I walk outside I can tell,” he said. “I appreciate it.”
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