He couldn’t sleep for days after a July fire gutted his West Franklin Street restaurant, Mediterranean Deli owner Jamil Kadoura said, but the community’s support and the desire to rebuild for his children and his employees gave him strength to keep going.
“The first two or three weeks were really hard,” Kadoura told The News & Observer last week. Med Deli posted its first net loss since he and his wife started the restaurant more than 32 years ago, he said.
Since then, he’s met with insurance, fire and construction officials, town staff, and an architect. Most mornings, he’s at work by 5 a.m.
Life is getting better, Kadoura said.
“My philosophy is get up, don’t think,” he said. “The most powerful thing in a human is our mind. It can be your enemy, if you let it. I just try to stay positive.”
The next chapter opens Wednesday, with the launch of a limited online menu for takeout and delivery. The menu will feature four or five entrees, such as chicken kabob, Moroccan chicken and the falafel platter, and about 20 side items. Desserts include classic baklava, gluten-free chocolate cake and a date-walnut bar.
“It’s a reduced menu for us, but it’s still a lot of choices for people,” said Ruby Brinkerhoff, one of two catering managers. “We’re looking forward to starting with this and then building from there.”
Online ordering will be offered from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with pickup at 454 W. Franklin St., near Carolina Brewery. Customers can order delivery through Grubhub, DoorDash and the Square online store at mediterraneandeli.com, with the addition of Takeout Central and UberEats over the next few weeks, Brinkerhoff said.
Customers will follow pandemic-style protocols for pickup, notifying staff when they arrive and getting their orders at the front door.
“I think it should be pretty seamless,” Brinkerhoff said. “We want to push online only as much as we can, because we don’t have a restaurant face.”
Businesses recover, reopen after fire
Kadoura told The N&O that he smelled smoke before finding his 81-year-old building on fire in July. The accidental fire was sparked by a contractor working on the building’s roof just as the Saturday lunch rush was winding down.
It took roughly 25 trucks and 48 firefighters from several departments several hours to put out the blaze. Crews continued to monitor the fire through the night, returning at least once to extinguish a hot spot, town officials said.
The final tally was $3 million in damages to Med Deli, plus $11,500 in damages to D.B Sutton & Co., a neighboring wine store and salon, and $60,000 in damages to the Moshi Moshi Means Hello salon, according to Fire Department reports.
Tropical Smoothie also was closed for several days to clean up smoke damage.
Moshi Moshi’s Franklin Street shop remains closed, but customers are being served at the Golden Belt location in downtown Durham.
D.B. Sutton reopened in August and celebrated 23 years in business Monday. Simply Audrey, a designer clothing boutique that has shared the D.B. Sutton storefront for four years, reopened Sept. 15.
It could be several more months before Med Deli welcomes customers into its newly furnished space, Kadoura said. In August, they restarted the catering business in the vacant Elaine’s space, including deliveries to Lenoir Hall on UNC’s campus .
That space is too small for a sit-down restaurant with a deli case, Kadoura said, and other spaces around town, including the former K&W Cafeteria at University Place, Tyler’s in Carrboro, and the vacant Old Chicago restaurant at 140 West Franklin, also didn’t work out.
His hope is that combining the catering business with takeout and delivery will generate enough income to support the restaurant’s 50-plus employees.
The $213,856 raised through a GoFundMe campaign and turned over to the Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro to manage ran out this week, he said.
“I think once we open for to-go (orders), we will have more revenue to pay the employees,” Kadoura said. “For me, it’s not going to be anything for the next couple of years at least, because I want to invest some money in the restaurant along with the insurance money to make a nicer kitchen.”
Changes, connection to community
Med Deli expanded six times in its West Franklin Street location, each time adding a piece here and there, he said. Now that they’re starting from scratch, it can be whatever they want it to be, he said, and it will have to meet modern building codes.
The market they operated next door to the deli probably won’t reopen, he said.
It’s been “a big loss,” he said, but the support of employees that he considers part of his family and the generosity and concern shown by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community and beyond “is everything to me.”
“What lots of people don’t understand is it’s so beautiful to have people that are not your blood relatives that really care about you — not because you’re their boss, not because they work for you — because they can get a job even better than what they have somewhere else,” Kadoura said.
“It’s just genuinely they love you, because they’ve been with you for a long time — you saw their kids growing, they saw your kids growing. It’s all this commitment and connection.”
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