Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli to replace Harvest House in Wilmington
The Ocean City, Maryland-based deli will open at 1204 Washington St. ideally in June 2020, replacing another Big Fish enterprise Harvest House. Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli’s arrival in Wilmington could be the first step in expanding the brand to Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
“First we’re going to start with one, sort of like a prototype,” Big Fish Restaurant Group President Eric Sugrue told Delaware Business Times. “Maybe grow the brand out with a franchise.”
In October 2019, Rosenfeld and Sugrue announced a partnership with Hank Rosenberg, current chief operating officer of hospitality for the Harrington Casino and Raceway, to expand the restaurant to northern Wilmington.
Rosenfeld told DBT that he was looking for a partner for roughly two years to help grow the brand, and he believes this partnership was worth the wait.
“This partnership has been a godsend, because I can see in Eric the same work ethic I have. I felt that I’ve taken this as far as I could, and Eric has the knowledge to take it to the next level,” he said. “It does thrill me knowing that a piece of my legacy — with my father and grandfather’s name — could go even further with 50, 70 or 100 shops if Eric takes it there.”
Rosenfeld, a retired banking attorney, opened the namesake deli in 2013 as a post-retirement venture. He worked 75-hour weeks in the corporate world. So once he arrived at the beach, he didn’t know what to do with his time. He decided to open an authentic Jewish deli after his wife asked him what his fantasy project was.
When Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli opened, it was the only one of its kind within a two-hour drive. Now it’s grown to a year-round operation in Rehoboth Beach and the Salisbury Regional Airport.
Meanwhile, Eric and Norman Sugrue had built a formidable chain of restaurants in Sussex County and Wilmington, that started with the first Big Fish Grill in 1997. The brothers made the transition to city life after meeting Mike Purzycki, then-executive director of the Riverfront Development Corporation and current Wilmington mayor, opening the Big Fish Grill on the Riverfront in 2007.
But Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli will be different from other Big Fish ventures in that it’s targeting a lost demographic in Wilmington after Jack Lundy’s Deli on Miller Road closed. It could also be the first to break out of the First State. The group is looking at putting restaurants in Baltimore, Annapolis and in D.C. in the future.
In Wilmington, the biggest challenge in opening Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli was finding the right spot for Big Fish to buy. Eventually, the group settled on closing Harvest House, a health food cafe that opened in 2018, and moving the deli there.
“We looked for many, many months in northern Wilmington and we couldn’t find suitable places. It’s quicker and easier to move into an existing place, since it’s already set up,” Eric Sugrue said.
Big Fish manages a block of restaurants in that same area, including Washington Street Ale House and Mikimotos. The group also renovated the historic stables on Torbert Street, creating the Torbert Street Social tavern last summer.
“We’re excited to see this brand grow, and we’re looking forward to the future,” Sugrue said.
Under the partnership, Rosenfeld said he retains the rights to his existing three delis and possible expansions in Sussex County and in Wicomico and Worcester counties in Maryland. Big Fish would manage other Rosenfeld’s Jewish Delis outside that area.
Furthermore, Rosenfeld will be active in marketing, menu and recipe management, brand authenticity, quality control, promotions and strategic planning.
“It’s a great partnership because we need each other,” Rosenfeld said. “You need someone with the knowledge of the Jewish recipes and why you do things the way you do, and you need someone with the business know-how to make it happen.”
By Katie Tabeling