Riverhead’s Fisherman’s Deli to close for good Saturday

05/21/2015 12:14 PM |
Juanita Devlin behind the cash register at her store Thursday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Juanita Devlin behind the cash register at her store Thursday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A longtime Riverhead business will lock its doors for the final time Saturday.

Fisherman’s Deli, which first opened on West Main Street in 1981 as a place for fishermen to load up on food and supplies before hitting the open water, has been sold. 

Owner Juanita Devlin, who has owned the eclectic shop by herself since her husband George died in 1984, said its closure is “bittersweet.”

“It’s been on the market for a long time,” she said. “I’ve had great associations with my customers and my co-workers. At one time I had five people working for me. The traffic isn’t like it used to be.”

Ms. Devlin declined to say who purchased the store, which includes her living quarters, or what they plan to do with it. She is currently making arrangements to move and will keep the business open for just two more days.

News of the closure was met with sadness from her loyal customers.

Mike O’Donnell of Calverton, who stopped by Thursday to pick up some clams and shiners before he headed out to fish from the Moose Lodge, said he’s been shopping there for more than 15 years.

“She was just a kid when I started coming here,” he said of Ms. Devlin. “It was so convenient to stop in here.”

Fishermans Deli worker Roger Miles sells some bait to longtime customer Mike O'Donnell of Calverton Thursday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Fishermans Deli worker Roger Miles sells some bait to longtime customer Mike O’Donnell of Calverton Thursday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Mr. O’Donnell noted how Fisherman’s Deli stayed open all winter, making it the rare place to buy bait in the off-season.

“We always had fresh minnows all year round,” Ms. Devlin said. “This past winter was fantastic for ice fishermen.”

Craig Dahlgren of Manorville said the closing of the store reflects an overall change in Riverhead and he hopes the new owners run a similar operation.

“It’s sad because the store always reminded me of what old Riverhead was — a quiet country town,” he said. “That seems to be changing too rapidly. Sure the selection was limited, but in this chaotic world, the simplicity was kind of refreshing.”

Ms. Devlin said that changing dynamic in Riverhead, with the expansion of Route 58, made it tough to stay in business.

“You don’t get people coming in for homemade salads anymore, they go to the big box stores,” she said. “I just had a customer this morning tell me that she is going to miss my tuna salad. Everything I make here is made from scratch.”

Asked if she had any parting words for her customers, Ms. Devlin said, “I’ll miss them and will remember their friendliness, graciousness and loyalty. I tried to meet all their needs.”

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