Scott Mechling opened 5th Avenue Deli with a simple objective: Serve quality food while providing quality service. Mechling has done just that and found success along Rosewood when some businesses have struggled and closed.
By: Zach Newcastle
April 30, 2015
Business along Rosewood Drive is in transition, but 5th Avenue Deli owner Scott Mechling is trying to do what he can to turn things around.
Mechling, who comes to work almost every day smiling, runs the deli on the belief that getting back to the basics of friendliness and quality service can overcome difficult times.
“We try to give the customers a pleasant experience,” said Mechling, who also owns the nearby Graph-itti screen-printing shop. “Quality and service, that’s what we are about.”
Mechling opened 5th Avenue Deli determined to clean up the area when he and his wife, Sadie, bought the building at Rosewood Drive and Holly Street eight years ago.
“We were told there was a crack house upstairs,” Sadie Mechling said. “He was determined to turn this place around.”
Business has been good even though it’s not the easiest to find – you have to walk up a flight of stairs from the parking lot to enter at the back of the restaurant. Now, the deli is about to move in to a larger space next door.
Sadie Mechling says her husband’s positive demeanor and can-do attitude drive him at work and home. Waitress Heather Hatchell says his passion makes him a great boss.
And David Britt, executive director of the Greater Rosewood Merchants Association, said Mechling’s deli represents what’s going right among the neighborhood’s businesses.
“He is an extremely hardworking guy,” Britt said. “He definitely cares about this area.”
We talked with Mechling about how he started 5th Avenue Deli, why he wanted to open a deli at all and how his simple philosophy played a role in the restaurant’s success.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
(Listen to the entire podcast)
Before you moved into this new location there, what was the condition of Rosewood and what made you want to open up here?
Rosewood’s been kind of rejuvenating and people have been renovating probably for the last 10, 15 years. It’s kind of coming back from where it was in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. I just needed something to invest in, and I knew the area real well.
How was it back then? Describe it a little bit how it was.
I’d say in the ‘70s, it was a little before my time, but it was more bars and nightlife. And then, I’d say in the ‘80s that started going away. … A lot of people used to be when you mentioned Rosewood they would think of a blighted area, not real desirable. … I think maybe part of it is a lot of the Rosewood people that live in Rosewood now is more homeowners … so people probably have more pride for their property than maybe a renter would.
What made you want to open up a deli?
Well, I bought the building as an investment. And I told my wife that if we couldn’t find someone to put in some type of deli, that we would do it. … Our goal was quality food and quality service. We didn’t really consider price being an issue or how fast or how slow you get your food, as long as the quality was good and the service was good people would come back. And I think this is the eighth year, I think we are going on eight years now.
Why the name 5th Avenue. I’m a New Yorker, and every time I think of 5th Avenue, I guess assume people are talking about the street in New York.
When I bought the property, on my deed it said formerly Fifth Avenue, Rosewood Drive formerly Fifth Avenue. So that’s how we came up with the name for that. … We didn’t want to call it Rosewood Deli or Sandy’s Deli or anything like that. We wanted it to have its own identity. … And at the same time it pops the question up just like you, you’re not the first one to ask that question. …
So you talked about how it has its own unique personality, or how you wanted give it its own individuality. How did you do that? Through the menu?
My wife came up with the idea of naming the sandwiches after the streets, and then we started naming some after people that came up with the sandwich. … The fact that it’s off the beaten path, I mean you have to walk upstairs to get to it. … Something’s got to be right for people to go out of their way. … We just wanted to make sure people enjoyed the food, that was really most important, and the service. Most of the girls (servers) know, if you’re a regular, they know what you’re going to eat.
I guess because you’re moving in to a whole new building and moving in to a larger space it’s apparent that you guys have been pretty successful. What do you think has been the key to that?
Quality and service, that’s it. … Just quality and service.