Junior’s Delicatessen, which served the West Los Angeles Jewish community and the broader residential Westside for 53 years, will shut its doors for the final time on New Year’s Eve.
The venerable delicatessen on Westwood Boulevard, victim to what the owners call a landlord dispute, will close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, displacing nearly 100 employees in the process. Customers dropping by on its last day will each receive a free bagel on what is expected to be an emotional day for staffers and customers alike.
Local resident Lenore Kayne, who used to patronize Junior’s even when she lived in Beverly Hills, called the news “horrific.” She added that her 4-year-old granddaughter loved to come to Junior’s with Kayne’s son on a regular basis. “She’s going to be devastated. How do you go down Westwood Boulevard without seeing Junior’s?”
Marvin Saul, a Korean War veteran who had gone bust as a uranium miner in Utah, was the deli’s founder. According to the delicatessen’s website, “With 35 cents in his pocket, Saul arrived in Los Angeles, did odd jobs and by 1957 had cobbled together $300 to open a small sandwich shop. Two years later, he established Junior’s, an eight-table delicatessen.”
The deli’s name came from Marvin Saul’s childhood moniker, “Junior.” Originally set up on Pico Boulevard, he moved it in 1967 to Westwood Boulevard.
His sons, David and Jon, inherited the business after Marvin Saul died last year, and had been helping to manage the restaurant since they were children. They said the impending closure is due to a lack of confidence by the building’s longtime owners, Four Corners Investment Company, in the Saul brothers’ managerial style.
David Saul said that a lease had been extended for the last six months and that he and his brother were confident that they could sway the landlord from closing the delicatessen. They had invested $38,000 into refurbishing the venue, from repainting the walls to adding new light fixtures and three television sets, he said.
The Saul brothers had tried to reach an agreement with the landlord up until the last minute. When that didn’t happen, they met with their staff Dec. 26 and delivered the bad news, only a day after the Christmas holiday.
“Ninety-five employees, 95 families,” said David Saul, morosely, as his younger brother, Jon Saul, dealt with a parade of media outlets descending on the busy deli on the morning of Dec. 27.
“It’s disgusting!” Jon Saul said. “It’s an icon. It’s been here for 53 years!”
David Burgoyne, a Creole native of New Orleans who has been delivering mail in the area for 25 years said the deli has been a neighborhood institution.
“I’ll miss everything about this place,” he said.
The closure of Junior’s will be different than those of chains like Borders or Barnes and Nobles book stores, according to David Saul. He said the restaurant and its catering services have long been a part of many families’ life-cycle events, from births to weddings to funerals, not to mention the site where many deals by executives from nearby 20th Century Fox have been sealed.
As news of Junior’s pending closure spread, a steady flow of longtime regulars swung by the restaurant to share their condolences with the Saul brothers and to pick up one last order ... at least for now.
The silver lining is that Jon and David said they are committed to finding a new storefront in the vicinity as soon as possible. While many employees — some of whom have been part of the Junior’s family for multiple decades — will no doubt be forced to look for other work before the restaurant is ready to return, David Saul said that he has updated the information of his staff and he hopes to rehire as many as possible.
Still, David and Jon Saul were very emotional on Dec. 27, their reality compounded by the fact that it comes mere days before New Year’s. Still, David Saul praised the loyalty of the customers and staff.
“We have employees in excess of 40 years here,” he said. “It’s a shanda it’s happening.”