In May of 2014, it was announced that the grande dame of Boston sandwich construction and South End dining staple since the 1920s, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, was closing down after 87 years in business. It was a sad day.
And for good reason. As one of the last lions in winter of the old-school counter-style dining spots in town, everyone from legends of jazz to the actor who played Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and even national politicos had made special stops for friendly service and killer Reuben sandwiches over the years. It was like a warm blanket of nostalgia for locals who have been going there all their lives.
So when Evan Deluty, owner and chef at Stella, decided to make a run at trying to buy the spot for himself, he admits he was doing it primarily because of its iconic status. That he had to buy it. Without it, Boston, and undoubtedly its denizen’s stomachs, would feel a bit emptier.
“I used to bring my kids in there so they could spin on the stools like I did when I was a kid,” he says. “My kids go to school around the corner. I’m a South End guy, and have been going [to Charlie’s] for years. I want to preserve what the family has built.”
After a 45-minute meeting with the brokers, Deluty said that it’s that desire to keep the spirit and feel of the place intact that swayed the deal in his favor with Arthur and Chris Manjourides, sons of Christos Manjourides, who purchased it from Charlie himself in the mid-1940s. Considering Arthur had been working there for the better part of 60 years (he started working there at age eight), Deluty says he gave Arthur free reign to keep anything he wanted after the deal had initially gone through. He took only one thing: his James Beard Award.
“I asked him if he wanted any of the other cool stuff, like the personal telegraph sent by Duke Ellington, or any of it,” Deluty says. “Nothing. Just the award.”
Deluty says he truly plans on bringing back Charlie’s as though it never left, and now that he’s ended his consulting run with 29 Sudbury, he can focus on bringing the Charlie’s project to fruition (Deluty says via a representative that they’re aiming to open to the public around “Halloween-ish”). The food and the decor will largely be the same that they’ve always been, and all of the remaining historical items and pictures that were left behind have been in a temperature-controlled storage unit after Deluty hand-wrapped them himself in bubble wrap for preservation. And it’s that desire to maintain history, instead of further a burgeoning empire, that fuels the fire for Deluty.
“I don’t need this project,” he says. “I want this project.”
CHARLIE’S SANDWICH SHOPPE. AIMING TO OPEN AROUND HALLOWEEN. 429 COLUMBUS AVE., BOSTON.