It’s not the décor of a place nor the service of the staff that gives stone and concrete a heartbeat. It’s not the vacancy of the parking lot nor the food being served that allows a stand alone building to develop a soul. It’s the people…employees and customers alike that make up the value of a business. Watching with one’s own eyes is the only proof that is needed to attest to the strength, oddity, and humor of the human spirit.
Growing up in a family business allows for a rare insight into the lives of those that pass through the doors whether they be employee or customer. So, in that regard, I embark on tales of soda pops and sundaes where it is not the food being evaluated but those that are ordering it.
Growing up, my father owned a fifties diner on the south side of the city. When he and my mother bought the small space in a strip mall, it was actually a Jewish deli. It stayed a deli for about ten years before my dad got the itch to renovate. Some might think it odd for a Palestinian ex-cop from San Francisco to own a deli turned diner, unless you where one of the rare few that actually knew my father. He was an odd amalgamation of stereotypes, but it made him who he was. He looked like any brown ethnic guy should with the heart of a cowboy, the temperament of an Italian hit man, and the imagination of a stoner. And it was this strange mixture that urged my father’s fascination with the golden era of America, where the American dream was alive and well, living in the hearts of all who chased it. He was fascinated with history, cars, music, and food…So, turning his kosher deli into a fifties diner wasn’t that odd of a decision. If anything, it was the next step. Having inherited my father’s love of all of the above, I was ecstatic when my parents made the announcement. My brother, sister, and I even helped my parents lay the black and white tile on the floor, or at least we would like to think so. In truth, we were no more than 8, 6,and 10 years of age, so our level of help was limited. We were probably in the way, but my mother and father pulled it off with the help of some employees. In four days, Deerwood Deli & Diner was born, and with it, my father’s dream of cheeseburgers and milkshakes at the lunch counter had become a reality.