EASTON — Old Mill Deli closed a few months ago, drawing community heartbreak and a tough goodbye from loyal customers — but the owners have since made a surprising and miraculous comeback. On Feb. 1, the famous eatery will swing open its doors for a grand re-opening.
Owners Joyce and Jeff Bridges are starting 2021 with a fresh slate and a hopeful promise to keep the beloved deli open for good this time.
“Six thousand people are happy that we are going to re-open,” said Joyce Bridges. “We wanted to make them happy again.”
On re-opening day, the 32-year-old small business, famous for its subs, hot soups and boardwalk-style fries, will open with a fresh look.
“We’re getting a new stove, a new freezer, and new floors,” said Joyce. “People are going to love us so much more.”
The deli was emptied during the closure, and Joyce said they are spending $20,000 to completely renovate the shop.
The popular deli will have new recipes on the menu, which the owners are keeping as a surprise for customers.
“We’re going to keep the basics, but there will be new meats and new soups,” said Jeff Bridges, who is the head chef at the carry-out eatery.
The owners announced the news via Facebook on Dec. 28. Loyal customers expressed immediate joy, with the post earning 392 shares, 315 likes and 112 comments.
“I cannot convey how happy this makes us! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Bring on the soup!!!!” wrote Brandi Arnold, a longtime customer of the deli who told The Star Democrat she was excited for the re-opening.
The deli shop off Washington Street officially closed on Oct. 21 after Joyce announced it would be too hard to continue running the shop. They struggled with health troubles and long hours with a shortened staff.
But Old Mill Deli is here to stay this time.
“My husband is awesome. He’s all better and I’m doing better,” Joyce said. “And we didn’t want to sit around and do nothing.”
After Jeff’s health recovery, he felt a bit at a loss. As he picked up the phone incessantly to hear offer after offer from people who wanted to buy him out, he kept looking out the window at the dark building next door to his house, where he had worked for 32 years.
“People wanted to rent it, lease it, buy it — but what am I gonna do for the next 50 years?” he asked. “We both went to school for food service and we’re pretty good at what we do. It means a lot to us. We have had this business for almost 60 years because my mother ran it as the Old Mill Market (before me).”
And before that, his family owned the property and building as a flour mill, during the 1920s. But the place has sentimental value for Joyce, too, who has worked there since its inception in 1989.
“I’ve been working at a restaurant since I was 15 years old,” she said. “I love it and I love what I give to people. Jeff is the cooker, I’m doing the salads and (front-end work). We’re both excited to be back there now.”
Out of the eight employees that were cut during the closure, about five will be brought back, including the couple’s son.
Hours and operations have changed. The deli will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.