|As reported by Evelyn Hsu in The Washington Post, Thursday November 30, 1989. © Copyright 1989 by The Washington Post Company. All rights reserved.|
|fter today, they'll be holding the mayo forever at
the Super Garden Deli and Market in Ballston. And the creamy rice
pudding. And the homemade salads.
For nearly 50 years, the deli has been an Arlington landmark. Generations of customersincluding neighborhood residents and, more recently, construction workers, lawyers, clerical help and othershave lined up at lunchtime to be served mammoth sandwiches and other quick fare by three generations of the Thaler family, including 78-year-old Aaron Thaler, who opened the market with his father in 1941.
Aaron Thaler presides over the last days of the deli he helped found nearly 50 years ago.
"I feel very emotional about it. These customers are all like family," said Thaler.
| Now the deli is closing, one of a series
of storefronts along Fairfax Drive that will be demolished to make way
for a high-rise office and residential complex and a park.
"I feel very emotional about it. These customers are all like family," said Thaler, who continues to work at the market part time with his son-in-law, the manager. Thaler began to weep as he discussed closing up today for the last time.
"I knew eventually it was coming," he said. "I sort of pushed it off all the time, day by day."
The fond feelings Thaler has for his customers is amply returned.
The deli is "an old friend," said Jay M. Sheppard, a biologist who works for the Fish and Wildlife Service nearby and has been coming to the deli for 12 years.
"It's a real neighborhood institution," said Francesca C. Rey, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of the Interior. "The people are friendly, they care, they give you good value for the money. Look at the walls, at the farewell cards."
But the neighborhood is changing. The low-rise storefronts and modest wood houses that once defined Ballston are giving way to a downtown core of modern and impersonal high-rises clustered around the Ballston Metro stop.
"We'll probably get something glossy and glitzy" in place of the deli, said Michael C. Hickey, another Interior Department lawyer. "And plastic," added Rey.
| Although the laments are
sincere, there is some irony in the mourning for the passing of a
neighborhood institution. Many of Super Garden's customers are part of
the changing development scene, brought to Arlington to work in the
proliferating high-rise offices.
The Super Garden has benefitted enormously from the Ballston building boom, going from a modest, though sucessful, concern to a business with $1.5 million in annual revenue and 25 employees.
Charles P. Jacobsen knows both sides of the story too. A Ballston landowner who was once the Super Garden's landlord, he is sorry to see it go but acknowledges that the building boom has been good for property values.
"Of course I like what's good for us but you're losing some of the personal touch the neighborhood always had," he said.
Plans for the development that will replace the Super Garden, Stuart Park, call for a 14-story office building, a 24-story residential tower with 338 units and a 1.1 acre park.
Thaler said the Oliver Carr Co. was generous in buying out the Super Garden's lease and offered to let the business reopen as part of the new development.
But Thaler said he is ready to retire, and his son-in-law, Lee Russell, said the family won't even think about that for now.
In the meantime, just about everything in the store is for sale, from paper cups at 99 cents for two stacks, to a Toledo scale for $50. The hand lettered signs that read "In case of fire be calm, pay bill and run" and "Eat or go to your room" are still up, along with Polaroid snapshots of customers who have won lottery prizes.
And though he doesn't much like it, customer Carl E. Birk knows what he will be doing from now on.
"I'll be carrying my lunch," he said.
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