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Ryan Johnson, Published November 28 2012

First & Deli closing its doors Dec. 20

FARGO – First & Deli is closing its doors after nearly a decade of business downtown, and the building’s owner said the space will likely be converted into a new restaurant and bar that will open next summer.

The deli was opened in 2003 at 520 1st Ave. N. by Terry and Barbara Saucke. Shari Wise bought the business in November 2007.

“It was overwhelming,” she said. “It was hundreds of more hours than I thought it would be.”

Wise said she soon mastered the recipes for the homemade soups, desserts and sandwiches that First & Deli was known for, and business has been good.

But her five-year lease is up with Global Development, a Fargo-based company that bought the building from the Sauckes. Wise said the deli will close at the end of regular business hours Dec. 20.

She said she originally planned to relocate First & Deli to another downtown building a block away.

“I found a spot; it was all ready to go, and then the cost was astronomical,” she said. “And then some of my equipment won’t meet new city code.”

Wise said there were options to move the business to other parts of the community to find cheaper space, but she feels the deli belongs downtown.

“The walk-in traffic is huge,” she said. “People will drive to go get a good steak or something, but I don’t think people are going to drive down 25th Street to stop at a soup and sandwich place.”

Wise decided about a month ago that she wouldn’t relocate the business. She told her 16 part-time employees as soon as she knew the deli was closing for good.

Until it shuts down on Dec. 20, the deli will keep its regular business hours and continue to offer its full menu. Wise is also selling the deli’s artwork and home merchandise at 30 percent off.

Randy Thorson, co-owner of Global Development with business partner Warren Ackley, said they’ll start a complete remodel of the space in early January once Wise clears out the equipment, furniture and merchandise.

“The first thing we’re going to do is gut it and see what we’ve got,” he said. “Then Warren and I are going to decide what to put in there. We’ll put something in there ourselves.”

Thorson said the first change will be closing off the interior door that now connects First & Deli with JL Beers, a restaurant and bar he co-owns that sits in the same building just east of the deli. That will give JL Beers space to add one more permanent table, he said.

The current deli space will gain its own restrooms instead of sharing ones with JL Beers.

Thorson said JL Beers won’t expand into the deli area, and the space will likely be a new restaurant and bar.

But many of the details aren’t finalized, and he said the new business will depend on what they find as they work to strip the walls and flooring in the coming months.

“We’ll redo the whole space into something; we just don’t know what it is yet,” he said.

Thorson said the new business could be open by mid-July.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587