SAINT JOHN – Jeremiah’s Deli will reopen in the Saint John City Market May 14, says longtime employee and new manager Loretta Hodges.
The popular local eatery, which had been in business for 37 years, closed in mid-April because of health inspection violations related mostly to issues with cleaning up mice droppings. At the time, owner Graham Stilwell challenged the inspector’s findings and worked to address the issues, but ultimately decided to retire and close the restaurant for good.
Hodges says it was a difficult decision for everyone because they were so close and had worked together for so long doing something they loved.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Hodges in an interview at the market Thursday. “I come here every day. I never wake up and dread coming to work. I love working here. I’m working every day with my best friend and my family. They’re not my real family but it definitely feels like a family. Graham’s been there for me since Day One. It was hard but we’re getting through it.”
Hodges, who began working at Jeremiah’s in 1999, and Maggie Bryson, who has been there for 12 years, will be taking over management of Jeremiah’s together. Eventually, they will buy the deli from Stilwell, says Hodges, which has been the plan for a while now but will happen sooner because of recent events.
“It was always the plan for us to be partners and buy the store eventually,” she said. “It just felt right for us to reopen now. It’s been here for so long and it’s our baby. We love our customers, we love our jobs. We love being in the market, so it felt like the right thing to do.”
Hodges is confident their customers will return once they reopen. She says people were concerned not only about losing a favourite eating place, but also about the people losing their jobs.
“I’m feeling really positive,” she said. “We have a lot of support throughout the city and a lot of people were very upset we were closed. I don’t have any doubts that our loyal customers will come back. I think they’ll be super excited.
“They were upset that we didn’t have jobs and we weren’t coming back. They were more concerned about us and when we let them know what was going on they were excited.”
Hodges says they’re not worried about passing the health inspection when it comes time to reopen, which they plan to do sometime in the next two weeks.
“I don’t have any doubts,” she said. “We did have a couple of issues and we’re working on them right now. When he comes back to do his final inspection before we open I don’t think he’ll find any issues.
“We would never feed our friends and family food that we thought was unsafe. I don’t think there will be problems in the future.”
Hodges says she and Bryson look forward to the day when they own the deli.
“Maggie and I come in every day and treat it as though it is ours, so it’s going to be even better when it actually is.”
They also look forward to welcoming back their customers, who will be able to buy their favourite items once again.
“People want to make sure they can get their sliced ham and their favourite sandwich, so when it comes to the food, everything is going to be the same,” said Hodges. “We’re just getting some new equipment to update things for ourselves, things to make us more efficient.
“We miss [our customers] and can’t wait to see them again.”