Pandemic no deterrent for new downtown deli

Brian Vickery, left, and Michael Barry co-own the new Vick’s Corner Deli. Cathy Dobson

Brian Vickery says he’s going back to his roots by opening up a new deli and grocery in downtown Sarnia.

The local businessman has co-owned a number of successful restaurants over the years, including Dockside at Sarnia Bay Marina and Los Puntos in Point Edward.

He’s no longer involved in either operation, having struck out on his own with the help of business partner Michael Barry.

Vick’s Corner Deli opened Sept. 4 on the northwest corner of Christina and Cromwell streets. Opening with pandemic protocols was reasonably simple, says Vickery. A socially-distanced lineup formed the minute the doors opened at 10 a.m.

“Our first day was fantastic. We never stopped until after 7 p.m.,” he said. “We even ran out of meat that day but we’ve got a great supplier and had more the next morning.”

The new eatery specializes in artisan sandwiches, homemade soups and fresh salads, just like Vickery’s first restaurant, Alternate Grounds on Front Street, years ago.

“I wanted my own operation and was drawn to this concept where I can get to know my customers and have some fun with it,” said Vickery.  “I also think this is something that downtown really needed.”

Classic turkey sandwiches are a hot commodity over the lunch hour, served with pepperjack cheese, cranberry mayo, lettuce, onion and tomato on a calabrese bun.  There’s a wide range of sandwiches including big beef, Italian cold cuts and the classic deli Reuben. Small sandwiches sell for $8.95 while large ones are $12.95.

Vick’s offers salad, sandwich and soup combos for $15.95, as well as Reuben dogs with sauerkraut for $6.50.  Fresh, pre-packaged salads sell for $10.95.

Seating is limited to 10 stools along a lunch counter that looks out to the street. A couple of tables are also on the sidewalk.  But the focus is on takeout with customers putting their orders in at an open kitchen and waiting for their name to be called.

The location is high-profile, says co-owner Michael Barry who also owns Mobil 1 Lube Express on Vidal Street.

He and Vickery have been buddies for years and decided to go into business together in January when there was little indication that a pandemic was coming.

They leased a large, 1,000-square-foot space where Zony’s Framing operated for years.  The building has been recently purchased, gutted and redeveloped into two new commercial spaces and six apartments.

About one-quarter of Vick’s Corner Deli has shelves and coolers full of deli meats, cheeses, produce and bread for sale.

“A small grocery is something we know people want downtown,” said Vickery. “We’re going to slowly build the grocery side depending on demand.”

Vick’s coffee is supplied by Blackwater Coffee Co. down the street.

The new eatery created four jobs that were easily filled at a time of high unemployment during the pandemic, Barry said.

Hours of operation are Monday to Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m; Saturdays 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Closed Sundays.

Got a great business story?  Send it to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.