High school sweethearts Dustin and Shannon Zlacki of metro-Pittsburgh bought the deli-diner-convenience store from Richard and Kathy Dean, who ran it for its first 21 years and are now retiring. The store, at 2770 U.S. 225 (formerly 25 South), was named after the Deans’ surname. The Zlackis took it over on Nov. 1, Shannon’s birthday, and trained under the Deans for their first two weeks.
The Zlackis will keep many of Kathy Dean’s sandwiches, and retain names of her signature Kathy’s Klub (ham, turkey, bacon) and popular Big Momma turkey and bacon, Shannon Zlacki noted. Ironically, Dustin’s mother is also a Kathy with a “K.”
Planned changes are a more varied and nutritious menu, mainly with a variety of roasted vegetarian sandwich wraps such as featuring spinach and tomatoes or onions and peppers. Shannon also said they will use low-lactose cheese, and leaf lettuce instead of spongy romaine lettuce.
They will likely introduce the pierogi, baking (not deep-frying) the semicircular ravioli-like dumpling wrap. It typically contains meat, potato, cheese or fruit. The pierogi has roots to Dustin’s Czech ancestry, as well as among Poles, Russians and other Slavs. Chopped ham barbecue is among other Pittsburgh possibilities, for the diner.
“This’ll still feel like a diner” with standard sandwiches and soups and chili retained, Shannon said. “But we’ll have a healthier menu.”
They also look to possibly add seating in place of one of the three merchandise racks, a greater wine and beer selection to go with the many soft drinks and juices, and less candy and hard goods, Dustin said.
Ice melt is among items remaining in good supply for now, and very conveniently near Flat Rock residents in bad weather. This is the lone food market in the village.
They will install changes while the store is closed for the last two weeks of this month, Jan. 19-Feb. 2.
By Saturday, Jan. 18, customers can put suggestions for the new business name in a box on the register counter. Already, a dozen people have done so. Dustin said to forget Dustin’s Deli; he does not want their names on it. He likes a naming identity with the Village of Flat Rock.
Seating capacity is 52, mostly in the room behind (and south of) the deli counter and corridor in front. A few more tables are in the convenient store section to the left, or north.
The deli is a regular morning meeting spot for several Kenmure retirees. There is a mix of in-diners with more take-out for those driving home in rainy or cold wintry weather, Shannon noted.
The four other workers remain in the deli, once a gas station. They said Shannon and Dustin are fun to work for, taking matters in stride well as they adapt to store-owner routines. They describe her as bubbly, and him as clever with dry humor. They also credit the Deans for building a friendly neighborhood atmosphere and customer base.
The Zlackis’ work days begin early, with firing up the oven. Working together all day for six days per week is a new venture for them. They moved here this summer. In the Pittsburgh area, he ran a window cleaning business. She also utilized organizational skills, as a medical office manager. Her degree is in pharmacy technology. His is in business finance and computer information systems.
They visited here in June, again for Labor Day and the Apple Festival. They had visited the Outer Banks often before, but prefer the mountains.
They opted to start a business, for a change, then scouted a few. Howard Molton, who owns nearby Flat Rock Cinema, is the realtor who showed them several eateries and bars. The deli was the last stop.
“As soon as we found this place, we fell in love with it,” cozy Little Rainbow Row it is part of and quaint Flat Rock, Shannon said. She and Dustin like the weekly summer farmer market in back of Rainbow Row, which fronts U.S. 225 just south of West Blue Ridge Road. A block north is Flat Rock Playhouse, at Little River Road.
They like this area’s slower pace of life, friendly people, scenic mountains and forests, and four seasons with winters much milder than in Steel Country and summers less humid. They are outdoor enthusiasts, into kayaking and bicycling.
With two grown children, they were free to relocate. Daughter Tierney baked goods for the deli, while on holiday break from Kent State. Their son Tristan, 24, works for a defense contractor in Afghanistan.
Dustin and Shannon are both avid fans of the Penguins, who have hockey’s premier stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They also like the Steelers, who have won the most (six) Super Bowls with four champion seasons in the Seventies and two in the last decade. Carolina Panthers fans are revved up for the playoffs, with a home contest at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The deli-diner reopens Feb. 3, the day after the Super Bowl with the Panthers ideally having just forged Steeler-like supremacy.
Winter hours are 7-4 weekdays, and 8-3 on Saturdays. For more information, call 692-5770.