A Pittsburg Tradition: A history of the Mall Deli

Jane: Oh my god, they still have the red booths, they still have the creamy italian.

Jane Marquez is a manager at Mall Deli in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Jane: It’s just meant a lot to me. Because it’s kind of a staple in town but it’s more like a… It’s home. It’s home.

Owner Jim Martino says his decision to buy the deli was rooted in…

Jim: (laughs) Desperation, if you want to know the truth, desperation. I was married and had two kids and we were broke… Yeah, we were broke.

Jim: At that point I made that committment to myself — you’re gonna do this or you’re gonna die trying. So why did I buy this business? Because it was the one that I could buy. I answered an ad in the newspaper.

On December 1st, 1979, only a few months after answering that ad, Jim and his wife Diane’s new venture opened for business.

Jim: I remember that day, driving home that night after we closed with the receipts for the day, and I’ll be honest with ya — my wife and I sat on the bed with cash and I just took it and threw it up in the air saying “Okay, alright, here we go!”

It’s been 40 years and several renovations since that night and the Chicago native now know the secret to success is more than just a legendary italian dressing.

Jim: Just be sincere. You really have to care.

Jim: What I see it as is a responsibility to all these people to make sure it’s as good, if not better, than when they had it last time. So we take care of business every day.

Which proves to create loyalty on both sides of the counter.

Jim: Kristi’s been here for twenty something, Karen’s been here for twenty-something.

And a certain manager who’s been there longer than any of them.

Jane: I was like a Junior in high school, so I was sixteen getting ready to turn seventeen years old.

Over the last 40 years, the Deli has become a part of Pittsburg, and over the last 37 years, it’s become a part of Jane.

Jane: It’s…(laughs) What do ya do? I do the deli.

And because of people like Jim and the Mall Deli family, it means even more.

Jane: The world. The world. Just because oh my goodness you’re making me emotional here. Because I want to see it strive like it has, and it’s just amazing. Seeing it from where Jim’s come from to where we are now, to be a part of that is just great. It’s family, it’s family.