Seaqua Deli & Catering just opened at 205 Waverly Avenue in Patchogue two weeks ago, but its roots go back to 1983 in Massapequa.
That’s when owner Pat Spates, 23 at the time, was living in a space above the deli’s walk-in refrigerator.
“We put a bed up there, a television and a VCR,” he said. “My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, would come up we would watch some movies and pass out.”
Then he’d wake up before dawn and go downstairs to open the deli.
And so began a 33-year career as a businessman, with Seaqua later expanding to a 5,000-square foot space on the other side of its shopping center in Nassau County.
A second Seaqua opened in 2011 in St. James, where Spates grew up, and now this one in Patchogue makes three in total. Read more of their story here.
Seaqua bills itself as an upscale delicatessen and caterer. Spates operates the business — which his dad, Bob, helped him open in the early 1980s — with a high school buddy, Rick Nappi, and others.
Another friend and business partner, Mike Otten, will be running the Patchogue location.
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Reflecting on over three decades, Spates said he finds himself making healthier food items than he might have in the 1980s — but other than that not much about running a delicatessen has changed.
“I worked for a lot great deli men growing up, a lot of great Germans,” he said. “So we take a lot of pride in what we do. And my dad was an Entenmann’s driver in the Massapequa area.”
So the family knew a thing or two about food.
However he said he’s noticed the overall quality of delis across the island has dropped.
“Bagel businesses are doing more than the delis, and the delis are kind of fading,” he said. “And it really is a shame because the deli is such a New York thing. In the 1980s there was a good deli on every corner. Now if you want to find a good deli you have to travel.
“Otherwise you walk into a place, look around and say, ‘Uh, I’ll just take a bottle of water.’”
Photo: Pat Spates and Mike Otten behind the Seaqua Deli counter in Patchogue with one of their gourmet sandwiches, the Delightful Club (smoked turkey, muenster cheese, fresh-cut avocados, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, Russian dressing on an onion pumpernickel club.