East Ferry Deli ready for the summer tourist season
The East Ferry Deli sits proudly on the central corner in Jamestown. With its spacious outdoor seating area, it is often one of the first sights that visitors to the village see upon their arrival.
The deli had been in operation for about seven years by the time Stacy Feight’s parents bought it in 1994. “My mom and dad always wanted to move to Jamestown,” she said. “We grew up right outside of Philadelphia. We always vacationed in Jamestown for two weeks out of every year while we were growing up.”
Feight explained that her parents had no previous restaurant experience.
“They both got cut out of middle management within the same year and they decided to buy a little mom-and-pop store, not knowing what they were getting into,” Feight laughed. “I worked in restaurants and my brother and I took courses. The kids had more restaurant experience than my mom and dad did.”
Feight said that along with her brother they moved to the island shortly after their parents did, and they settled right into the restaurant.
“We moved up right after they did, and we pretty much took over,” she said. “The whole family worked their butts off until we figured it out.”
Moving to a new place and opening a new business wasn’t easy at first. “It was scary at first coming to Jamestown and trying to get the trust of the locals, but now it’s like one big family,” Feight said. “I sit and talk with them. They’re just great people.”
Although the whole family was involved at the beginning, things have changed over the years. The deli opened in 1994 and Feight’s parents, along with her siblings, helped to run the restaurant. Following her mother’s death in 2004, Feight took over her mom’s half with her father. “Little by little all the other siblings went away, so it’s pretty much just me,” she said.
Feight’s father, Bob Umbenhauer, is now retired and she is in the process of trying to buy his half of the deli.
The deli is popular with summer visitors, but Feight is appreciative of her regular customers. “We have great locals that come in every single day,” she said. “They’re there two or three times a day. They really keep us in business. We like to stay open. The only day we’re closed is Christmas.”
Despite a strong local following, it is the summer that brings the kind of business that keeps Jamestown restaurants afloat in the slower winter months. “We have our regulars and they stay year round,” Feight said. “The tourists started last month and they usually stick around until October. I would say that our business triples in the summer. Summer is so busy. We usually have lines out the door most of the day.”
“We look forward to the tourists and the people who have summer houses here,” Feight continued. “You haven’t seen them all winter long and they come back and it’s so nice to be able to greet them and see them again for awhile.”
Summer brings changes to the East Ferry Deli. The most apparent one is that the deli stays open for two additional hours, until 7 p.m. There are also some additions to the menu. “We added a new lobster roll to the menu, which has become very popular,” Feight said.
The deli’s frozen drinks were recently featured in SO Rhode Island’s May issue. A magazine staffer described a caramel and whipped cream-topped treat as being “like a nice dessert in a cup.” According to Feight, “We have a frozen coffee latte that comes in different flavors and also fruit smoothies.”
Feight expresses great pride in her staff. Many of them have been with her for a considerable length of time. “We have around 10 people on the staff. Most of them we’ve had for more than a year. A couple of them have been here for 15 or 16 years. Most of them are local. They started in high school and they’ve gone all the way through college and beyond. We’ve got a great staff.”
Like all small businesses, the East Ferry Deli has been forced to deal with the financial impact of the recent economic downturn. “We try to absorb the cost of coffee especially, which has gone up considerably, and paper products. Just about everything has gone up. We try to absorb that in winter for our locals and just recently had to raise prices to actually stay in business. It’s impacting our prices to the local people.”
The East Ferry Deli is located at 47 Conanicus Ave. and features sandwiches, salads, bagels, baked goods, and hot and cold beverages. The deli opens at 6 a.m. seven days a week.