Maybe it was a Sunday morning, decades ago, when Buddy Hackett called “Good morning!” on his way to buy coffee and The Times. Or maybe it was when you caught yourself wondering how long since you saw the shop cat relaxing in front and you worried a little.
Whenever it was, sooner or later, you realized that “the deli” was a resource shared by almost everyone on Roosevelt Island, some for a hot cup of coffee before hopping on a Red Bus out front, some for an emergency bottle of laundry detergent, and others for fresh fruit and a break in the day. Rich or poor, famous or just one of us, we have relied on our deli for decades.
One thing is for sure, whether we call it the “M&D Deli” or its new name, “Bread & Butter Market,” it’s so much “the deli” that many of us didn’t even notice the name change for months after new signage went up. Our deli is woven into the Roosevelt Island fabric. It’s just there.
As part of Hudson/Related’s deal for managing local business leases, a major push began to update and improve shops fronting on Main Street – or to supervise the exit of those unable to keep pace. For all to thrive, the environment had to improve, to become more welcoming and vibrant. When that impetus hit the M&D Deli, things went from good to even better.
Along with a new name came a revitalized look, more products and a more user-friendly design.
One thing that strikes you on entering Bread & Butter Market is the more open look of the counter space where clerks greet customers in a well-lit setting that used to be cluttered and a little claustrophobic. Now, it’s friendlier, with an easier connection between customer and register.
Joined on the right is a salad bar and a deli counter filled with delicious-looking prepared meals, making it a great place to grab lunch or dinner on the fly.
Summoning the bleary-eyed customer on her or his way to work, a coffee machine offers the variety people have come to expect, whether you’re a black coffee-for-survival type or a more refined consumer of hot, caffeinated beverages. Bagels and baked goods are nearby, and for the more health conscious, baskets of apples, bananas, lemons and plantains are fresh and full.
What seems most changed at the deli is the smart reorientation of shelves filled with basic commodities. Instead of aisles running north from the counter, each now rests at a 90 degree angle and takes advantage of the floor-to-ceiling street-front windows for extra lighting. The shelving is tall and well-stocked. Prices are usually easy to locate for comparisons.
Comparison shopping matters to most of us. At Bread & Butter Market, the owners wisely offer an adequate variety of products to consider. Maxwell House faces off against Folger’s, for instance. General Mills goes head to head with Kellogg. Nowhere in this new arrangement are you hampered by a lack of choices or an inability to find what you want.
You might expect less from a market with relatively small floor space, but instead, what you come away with is an understanding of why such places are sometimes called “convenience stores.” With the new, better-lit, and open design, shoppers save time and money by easily finding what they want without walking endless aisles, forced to look at products for which they have no interest.
A final but decisive factor is that the friendliness Islanders have become used to finding at this venue remains undiminished. Sam, the deli counterman, waits for his next order with a broad, easy smile. “I’ve been working here since 1985,” he brags.
So, how about that? A convenience store that’s actually convenient and retains people who love their jobs? Little things help a small community thrive. More than ever, now, Bread & Butter Market does its share.