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Eastern Market Corporation May Step in to Help Stop Deli Closure

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The organization is exploring options to save the deli and also “rate” new investments in the neighborhood

People walk past the yellow awning and sandwich board sign for Zeff’s on a sunny day in Eastern Market. Michelle and Chris Gerard
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

The non-profit organization that runs Eastern Market is looking for ways to potentially stop Russell Street Deli’s closure.

The popular restaurant announced on Monday evening that it would be closing down in September due to an ongoing dispute over the cost of property repairs with the building’s new landlord. The news has spurred outrage among fans of Russell Street Deli and the market at large, which has experienced a spate of business closings in the past several months connected with the same landlord, Firm Real Estate’s Sanford Nelson. Many fans of the market fear that a flood of new investment is changing the unique character of the district.

On Tuesday, in response to the reports, Eastern Market Corporation released a statement on social media indicating that the organization was planning to intervene and assist in finding a resolution to the conflict:

Eastern Market Corporation (EMC) is deeply concerned about the situation involving Russell St. Deli and their landlord Firm Real Estate and the loss of a long-standing, iconic Eastern Market business.

In the end, Russell St. Deli’s fate should not rest on a contested repair bill. EMC stands ready to work toward a solution, to do everything in our power, to keep a long-standing business open as part of the market district’s valued mix of businesses that are so important to the city.

Eastern Market Corporation president Dan Carmody tells the Detroit News that the organization has been in touch with both the property owners and Russell Street’s team and were unable to find a solution. However, the group is still exploring options including potentially finding funding for the deli to remain open — something Carmody says the organization has done for small businesses in the past.

At issue is an alleged $50,000 in repairs to Russell’s Street’s floor. Co-owner Ben Hall claims he requested the repair from his new landlord Sanford Nelson earlier this year when Nelson promised to take care of building maintenance. Hall alleges that Nelson blamed the issue on Russell Street’s negligence and demanded the business foot the bill for the repairs. Russell Street received two proposals for increased rents to cover the bill; both rates were more than 100 percent increases over the business’s current monthly payment. Russell Street elected to close instead, although the option of relocation is still on the table.

Meanwhile, Eastern Market Corporation tells Crain’s the organization is looking for ways to hold new neighborhood investors accountable in the district. One approach could include rating building projects based on how they fit the market’s “core values” as a way to decide whether the organization will support those proposals with city planners.

Eastern Market Explores Ways to Keep Russell Street Deli Open [Detroit News]
Eastern Market Makes Plans to Preserve Affordability, ‘Core Values’ in Changing Food District [Crain’s]
Russell Street Deli Prepares to Close in Eastern Market Due to Landlord Dispute [ED]
All Eastern Market Coverage [ED]

Russell Street Deli

2465 Russell Street, , MI 48207 (313) 567-2900 Visit Website