Russell Street Deli owners plot pizza and pasta spot in Hamtramck, two years after closing

Mar 17, 2021 at 10:57 am
The former Russell Street Deli. - GoogleMaps
The former Russell Street Deli.

Nearly two years since beloved Russell Street Deli called it quits following a very public dispute with their controversial landlord over a $50,000 floor repair, the deli's former chef and co-owner as well as his wife are now teaming up to bring some pizza and pasta to Hamtramck — and they need some help.

An campaign has been launched by Ben Hall and his wife Arielle Laws, with a goal of $175,000 so that they can open a pizza and pasta restaurant in the former Baker Streetcar Bar in Hamtramck, The Detroit Free Press reports. Per the campaign description, the funds will be used for updates and equipping the space with restaurant necessities like an exhaust hood and walk-in cooler.

“Friends! Russell Street Deli is not coming back but we do have some GOOD NEWS. Russell St. was the caterpillar, and we are about to start that butterfly phase! We’re going to open a new place,” the campaign text reads.

Billed playfully as “Russel Street 2.0,” the new spot won't boast the two-handed sandwiches and bowls of fresh soup the popular Eastern Market deli had been known for since opening in 2007. But Hall and Laws's new spot will serve fresh pizza and pasta made daily, with brunch service once a month.

“If you think about it, a pizza ain’t nothing but a big ol’ open-faced sandwich anyway and sauces are just soup,” the post reads. “It’s a thing we love, the possibility of combinations, the way people of all ages love pizza.”

Russell Street Deli was one of several Eastern Market businesses to close after Bloomfield Township native Sanford Nelson and his real estate company Firm Real Estate LLC began scooping up large pieces of a much-loved neighborhood, making changes no one asked for, funded buy his dad's wealth and connections.

“Part of the reason we’re closing is that we don’t have any recourse," Hall told The Detroit Free Press in 2019. “There’s not much we can do. He closed us down for that one day and there’s no way I can get that money back. Even if I chose to litigate … it wouldn’t really be a thing where we would have the opportunity to recoup the expenses. And it doesn’t make a difference to the employees, because they have lives. The minute I told them, they were like, 'Should we get other jobs?'”

Though Hall has received many offers from many landlords since closing two years ago, the search for the perfect place came down to wanting to save an old space in need of saving.

“New real estate developments are fine, but we wanted something that felt like the times in Detroit that have been so readily erased by development and now the pandemic,” the campaign post reads. “We wanted to find a spot that felt like it was going to VIBE FOR YEARS.”

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