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The Owner of Iconic Former Detroit Deli Mr. Fofo’s Has Died From COVID-19

Otis Knapp Lee’s deli drew crowds for over three decades with huge corned beef sandwiches

Otis Knapp Lee, the founder of longtime Midtown deli Mr. Fofo’s, has died from coronavirus, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Lee died over the weekend in Garden City Hospital at the age of 72, 10 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Speaking to the Free Press, his son Keith noted that Lee had no substantial health issues prior to contracting the novel coronavirus.

Lee owned and operated the deli on Second Avenue for over three decades: He opened it at the age of 25, making a name for the restaurant with huge, hearty corned beef sandwiches (one of the first black-owned businesses to specialize in the cured meat). But the often-crowded deli also drew crowds for its soul food options, from mac and cheese to sweet potato pie.

Mr Fofo’s closed in 2007 and Lee left Detroit, but moved back in 2016 to help son Keith open a new iteration of Mr Fofo’s on Livernois, south of 7 Mile Road, although that location closed due to issues with construction in the area.

Lee is survived by five sons and one daughter — the family is expecting to hold a closed funeral for loved ones, but is also planning an online memorial — due to the statewide ban on large gatherings, a public memorial is not possible at the moment.

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