Since their days at Camp Nock-A-Mixon, Rob Woloshin and Jeremy Thomas dreamed of opening a business together.
Now, years later and with the addition of Jeremy’s brother, Chase Thomas — who also went to the camp — the three are seeking to rejuvenate the culture of Jewish delis with the recent opening of Manny’s Restaurant and Delicatessen at 102 Buck Road.
After buying what was Famous Deli of Bucks County a few months ago, the three have cleaned up the space, repainted, refurbished and reopened as Manny’s.
The spot is also the original location of the Famous Deli that Jeremy and Chase’s father, Stu, owned and operated until the ’80s before it was passed on to Steve Stein.
For the new owners, while Woloshin admitted a deli wasn’t their initial idea, the restaurant presented a chance to keep the Jewish deli culture alive.
And with ages ranging between 25 and 32, it was also a chance to share that tradition with the next generation.
“We just thought, why aren’t there more Jewish delis?” said Jeremy Thomas. “You don’t need to be Jewish to love a Jewish deli; everybody loves a Jewish deli. … And we just figured that it’s an older person’s industry and the people that opened them up, they’re getting older and they’re closing their stores and they’re not innovating and we were concerned, frankly, that we would be in our 40s and there would be no more Jewish delis to bring our kids to. We thought there was a good market for it.”
So far, they enthused, it’s been successful.
While they are still adding finishing touches to the interior and growing the catering side of the business, they have enjoyed watching the restaurant become a community go-to place.
“The Jewish deli doesn’t need to be just a place to buy and sell food; it’s a hangout,” Jeremy Thomas said. “It’s where people come and see other people. We love that. It’s a social environment, and we hope that integrating with the community, it will be a place like a community center.”
Solidifying his brother’s point, Chase Thomas motioned to a table with a group of older men, howling with laughter and animated conversation over lunch. The group comes in for lunch at least six times a week, he said.
“We want to bring back the feel of somebody comes in, they know us, they know the waitress, they know the deli man, the waitress knows what they’re ordering, the deli man knows what they want to take home for their lunches for the week and they get to see their friends sitting in the booths with their families, and it’s just more of a community feel,” Chase Thomas said.
Each brings his own area of expertise to the proverbial deli counter.
While Woloshin and Jeremy Thomas have experience and training in the hospitality industry through working in hotels and even Disney World, Chase Thomas has an entrepreneurship and marketing background.
It’s a division of labor, they noted.
And all the while, they’ve paid homage to their roots.
They’ve nodded to Camp Nock-A-Mixon through the names of certain options on the menu, like “the Birdy Club” and “the Lumar Hash” — others just have witty names, like “the Barbra Streisandwich,” decidedly not named for a camp alum — and even the name of the restaurant itself.
Manny is the name of the chef at the camp, who was there when they were and still is, they said.
When trying to decide on a name, Manny’s came up and “it stuck,” said Jeremy Thomas, adding that was also his grandfather’s name. “A Jewish deli called Manny’s.”
In the future, they hope to open for dinner after the High Holidays, for which they are already preparing logistics and catering plans. But for now, they are focusing on breakfast and lunch and forging a strong community relationship.
“We know there’s going to be mistakes,” noted Woloshin, “and it’s how can we address them so that that customer leaves and they’re like, ‘Whoa, that started off bad but I’m going to go recommend this place to a hundred people because they care,’ and we all really do. It’s our baby. We’re younger and it was all of our dream to own our own business, and people when they come in, they feel that.”