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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013

Jake’s Deli Branches Out

Corned beef comes to Grand Avenue

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As its oldest regulars can attest, Jake’s Deli hasn’t changed much since the ’50s. The business has changed hands a few times over the decades, and new managing partner Gary Plassmeyer brought with him some fresh signage and a few technical upgrades in 2009, but the iconic Jewish deli at 1634 W. North Ave. has remained largely untouched by time, even as the neighborhood around it has transformed.

Though Jake’s retains a strong reputation among its regulars, many of whom travel well out of their way for its decadently fatty, hand-carved corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, Plassmeyer was surprised to learn how much of the city had never heard of the deli. He decided to reach out to new customers who don’t regularly find themselves in the inner city. “Our real focus right now is to bring Jake’s to as many people in the Milwaukee area as we can,” explains Jake’s director of guest services, Robert Frost.

As part of that push, this summer Jake’s began operating stands at farmers’ markets and outdoor festivals, including the State Fair, Bastille Days and the Milwaukee County Zoo a la Carte. That exposure helped lead to something more permanent: a home in the Shops of Grand Avenue’s food court.

Opened in December, Jake’s Grand Avenue location is a coup for a mall that could always use a few more local institutions and a boon for Downtown workers craving a hearty lunch. “It’s a unique addition to the mall,” Frost explains. “We cook everything at our deli at North Avenue and bring it down there fresh every day. We keep everything very consistent, so it tastes just like it does at our deli on North.”

This winter Jake’s also became a presence at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, supplying food to an arena-operated stand called The Carvery Featuring Jake’s Deli. Open during arena events, the stand offers a smaller menu of freshly carved sandwiches, including corn beef, pastrami and turkey.

Jake’s has further expansion plans. Frost says the deli will continue to scout additional locations and is in the process of expanding its delivery operation. While the business may be growing, Frost insists that its North Avenue mothership will continue operating as it always has.

“The North Avenue location is the beating heart of Jake’s,” he says. “It will never ever go away.”
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