- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2019

For co-owners Shira Elzarat and her father, Paul Zlotnicki, the closing of the Woodside Deli at its flagship location in Silver Spring was like a death in the family or the loss of a best friend.

The landmark eatery closed abruptly a week ago after 72 years in business after a disagreement over the lease with the landlord, Deoudes-Magafan Realty, which declined to comment for this story.

“It was almost like Woodside was alive,” Mrs. Elzarat said. “I truly mean if the walls could talk “

In an often too-transient area, the Woodside Deli, located hard by the Beltway on a busy, unprepossessing strip of Georgia Avenue, seemed a permanent fixture, a place where residents from surrounding neighborhoods could go for a hearty meal and a good chance of seeing their neighbors at a nearby table.

Snider’s Super Foods, another institution for locals that set up shop a year earlier, is barely a block away.

Mrs. Elzarat and her husband, Sharon (pronounced “sha ROWN”) Elzarat, also a co-owner, said they notified customers on Oct. 1 on social media and at the store that the deli’s last day would be the following Sunday.

Last Monday, Mr. Zlotnicki was waiting at the door to personally tell customers the Silver Spring location had closed.

Mr. Zlotnicki purchased the restaurant/deli from its original owner, Gus Harris, in 1987 because “he loved the authenticity of the restaurant,” said Mrs. Elzarat, who was 11 at the time.

When he bought the restaurant, Mr. Zlotnicki inherited a lease that put the burden of building repairs and maintenance on the renters rather than the landlord, Mr. Elzarat said.

Over the years, the owners have renovated the bathrooms, the HVAC system, the roof, the awning and the electrical system. It was a part of the monthly budget to snake the toilet once a month. They replaced the kitchen floor four times over the last 10 years, Mr. Elzarat said.

Last year, Mr. Zlotnicki decided he wanted to retire and sell the Silver Spring restaurant to someone willing to continue operating the Woodside Deli.

The owners began renegotiating the lease last year, but the landlord was unwilling to bear the cost of maintenance, which Mr. Elzarat said would be nearly a half-million dollars to comply with building codes.

After continuing the lease on two-week increments since July, the cost of legal fees, future maintenance and the short-term leases became unsustainable and the owners notified the landlord of their intention to close the business.

“I am not sour with the landlord, he is doing his job and covering his interests, I understand where he comes from,” Mr. Elzarat said. “It’s just a shame we couldn’t come to an agreement.”

Gaithersburg resident Lori Shell said she had gone to the deli since she was a kid, but had been a regular customer for the last 16 years.

“It was a landmark here. It had been around for so long, it was more like a ‘Cheers’ environment where everybody knows your name,” Mrs. Shell said.

Mrs. Elzarat said her father wanted to create a business culture to express gratitude to the customers and the community.

“He came here from Israel and he was given such an opportunity, and he always wanted to give back and say thank you to America and the community in Silver Spring,” Mrs. Elzarat said.

Mr. Elzarat said they regularly donated canceled catering orders and hot meals to shelters in the area and gave food and money to events at local schools, the police and fire departments, and fundraising events.

Mr. Zlotnicki expanded the business to a Rockville location at 4 N. Washington St., and Ms. Elzarat and her husband opened a Germantown location, which they no longer own.

“Thank God we still have the Rockville location,” Ms. Elzarat said, adding that they will operate the catering business there.

Of the 21 employees who worked at Silver Spring, four now work at Rockville and five others will join them after the hours of operation are extended to 9 p.m. starting Nov. 1.

“My wife is crying about it, she grew up in this business,” Mr. Elzarat said. “It’s painful.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide