November 3, 2021
“Before we started The Deli & Company, Michelle and I weren’t sure what we wanted to do. We were young and had no responsibilities at the time, but we knew we wanted to find a job in the restaurant industry and live in Maine.
We both used to cater at functions and we found it to be a lot of fun. In 2003, we bought the business formerly known as Saco Island Deli. So much has happened since then that has helped us to learn and grow.
We’re in the business of perishables, so when COVID hit, we felt an initial loss of control. We didn’t know if coworkers would show up, if food would come in on time, or if customers would actually visit us. That was more uncertainty than I have ever known in my entire life.
But once we stepped back and analyzed the situation, we began to realize that’s kind of how the restaurant business always operates. Things are always in flux and getting through this felt a little more possible after we began to view it that way.
My father-in-law always says, do what you’re known for and do what you’re good at. Because of COVID, we had to alter the way we did business, both as a means to follow COVID guidelines and for us to be able to survive. We had never imagined before COVID of doing curbside pick-up, but if you weren’t doing that as a restaurant during COVID, you were losing business. So many regulars would still come, but instead of being able to warmly greet them, they couldn’t leave their car. We couldn’t chat like we used to. Things were just so different.
Each week, my wife and I would have a meeting where we'd talk about the business and our continued efforts to adapt and overcome. It’s how we made it through. Most days we were just happy to pay our staff and bills to be able to keep our doors open.
Even now, shortages are still occurring. I bought an extra freezer just to be safe. We have a menu with all these items on it, but if food doesn’t come in at the right time, customers are upset, justifiably so, that you don’t have it. I wish we had more control over that. It can be frustrating for sure.
Through that experience, though, I’ve learned to never rule out ideas or thoughts presented to me, because you never know what inspiration will come from the contributions of others.
I like to think that when times get tough, we can lean on each other for support. Amidst the pandemic, we wanted to help others but we only had so much money to give. We decided that instead of always giving money, we’d show our love to the community through our love of food. We donated sandwich platters to local hospitals and nursing homes and offered discounted meals for the general public.
After a while, we just couldn’t cover the cost anymore. We weren’t profiting, we didn’t have the staff we needed. Things were so uncertain. But it felt important to try. We ended up transitioning over to sponsored meals, which enabled people to donate to our cause. All money provided was used to cover the cost of a meal that we would then provide to those who needed them.
Despite COVID, we continue to grow as a business. To us, community means being willing to help others in whatever ways possible. Someone who truly needs help may not even want to ask for it, but you can truly change someone’s life by offering yourself and your services.
We always want to be helping more, but we have to step back and remember that even the smallest actions can create a big impact. We haven’t been the only ones giving back, either. Amongst restaurants, even our competitors, there’s been such a strong sense of community. In the strangest way, the pandemic kind of brought us together to fight against the common enemy that was COVID.
For their support, and the support of our customers, we are endlessly thankful. We are so honored to have received this award and very proud to be a part of this community. Our business will soon be celebrating 18 years of being open, so to receive this award puts a big smile on my face. Choosing to open this business was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.” - Mark Claussen, Co-Owner of The Deli & Company in Saco," - Mark Claussen, co-owner of Deli & Company in Saco
Congratulations to The Deli & Co. on being selected as one of our winners of the Heartbeat of Our Community Award!