After sitting empty for more than a decade, the 56-year-old landmark Weaver Deli in Bellport was re-opened this spring.
And those who grew up running errands to the deli and market have been welcoming the new owners — not only with patronage, but with fond memories of their time spent at the barn-red building on Weaver Avenue.
“I remember I used to ride my bike here when I was 4 or 5 years old,” recalled customer Phil Ray, 18, who lives just a few blocks away. “I used to come here with my cousins.”
At that age, back in the early 2000s, his focus was on candy. Now Ray visits Weaver regularly for bread and cold cuts, as he was doing Monday.
“And a snack,” he said. “The food here is good. Really good.”
Aamir Owais of Patchogue — who purchased the land with relatives in February and runs the deli with his uncle, Mohammad “Moe” Shariff — said many customers like to reminisce with the new owners.
“Everyone’s excited about it,” he said. “I get Facebook messages from people who are now living out of state; they say they want to come by and see the place.”
All that history is why the new owners decided to keep the name.
“It just has history, you know?” Owais said. “People knew the deli and we just kind of kept it.”
The prior owner, Dennis Conley of Bellport, who grew up nearby and worked in the deli as a youth, said Weaver Deli is the last remaining store original to the Bellport neighborhoods between Montauk and Sunrise highways that have become neglected over several decades.
He purchased the building and the business in 1977 from Pasquale Quarltere, whose father, George, built the deli in 1959 and operated it until 1974, when he handed it off to his son.
During that time, the Quarltere family lived next door, Conley said.
Conley sold the business, though not the land, in 1990 to tenants that he said ran it into the ground. After they left in 2003, he spent the next several years renovating the place, though he was unable to re-open it himself.
“But I was determined to not let it disappear, since it had been there since 1959,” he said. “I grew up in that neighborhood and there is just nothing there, no history to the original neighborhood.
“It’s the only original business left in that community.”
He was also determined to not let the property fall into the wrong hands again, he said.
“There were lots of people who had approached me [to reopen the building] and I just felt that it would turn into a disaster,” he said. “I wanted to make sure this time that it was someone who knew what they were doing and had the experience to manage it. And they do.”
Upgrades to Weaver Deli since the business closed in 2003 include the installation of modern light fixtures in the kitchen behind the cold cuts counter.
There, the two cooks make soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as hot foods.
Outside, Weaver Deli looks much like it did in the 1970s, with the stanchions that used to hold the old pay phones still intact — though the pay phones are gone.
And just like the 1970s and 1980s, Weaver Deli isn’t your typical deli that welcomes a rush of morning contractors and then closes not long after lunch. It sees a steady stream of customers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“This is a neighborhood place,” Owais said.
Just as Conley and so many others remember it.
Top photo: New lighting in the deli’s rear kitchen. (Michael White)