Marvin Saul, proud founder of Junior’s Delicatessen in Westwood, died of a heart attack Dec. 8 at 82. Known by his son David as the “Mayor of Rancho Park,” Saul could be found three days a week, up until his death, greeting guests at his deli, where lines often run out the door on weekends for the kosher-style food and warm atmosphere.
Saul was born on June 28, 1929, in Atlantic City, N.J., to Ralph, also a restaurateur, and Lillian Saul. A Korean War vet, he gave up a career in uranium mining to found the original Junior’s in 1959 on Pico Boulevard. What began as an eight-table delicatessen, named after Saul’s childhood moniker, was moved in 1967 to its present, much larger Westwood Boulevard location. Today, Junior’s 300-item menu reads like a novel and includes classic Jewish foods like knishes, kugel, matzoh ball soup and potato latkes. The restaurant’s regulars include celebrities such as Mel Brooks.
“It was never about the money we earned,” said long-time Junior’s manager Jose Sorto. “It was about the way that he treated you — and he treated us like gold.”
In 1990, when Saul was 61, his sons, David and John, took over the daily running of the deli, leaving Saul to do what he did best: shmooze with the customers and encourage hearty eating.
“One of the most important things he taught me was not to look at people by color. The first time Mr. T came into the deli in the late ’80s, my dad sat down with him and talked, at a time when that just wasn’t done,” son David said.
Saul is survived by his wife, Bette; sons David and John; and four grandchildren.