Not many people get to product-test their next business venture for 20 years, but David Cummings did just that before opening Breezeway Deli & Wine in April.
He spent those 20 years as a manager of two nearby retail stores, and became a frequent and enthusiastic lunch customer of Gretchen Gonyer’s Crushed Grape.
Located between the two major shopping centers on Madonna Road, the Crushed Grape was a popular deli/retail establishment known for its generous “sammies” and all manner of locally made products — typically assembled into plentiful gift baskets.
“Gretchen started talking about separating the businesses, and I told her to let me know,” Cummings said. When Gonyer made the decision, the two had no problem coming to an agreement for Cummings to buy the deli, “and she’s helped me a ton, she’s right there for all my questions.” (The Crushed Grape is now located just across the parking lot.)
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Taking the approach that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Cummings kept almost everything the same, right down to the recipes and staff. The sammies still come bagged and ready to go with a side salad and a pickle. Quite literally, the only change on the menu is the logo.
“If you used to come in here and get a No. 12 (a hot pastrami sandwich with provolone on a French roll, one of the deli’s most popular sandwiches), it’s the same No. 12 now,” Cummings said. Other unchanged favorites are the Tuscan Turkey Melt (No. 29) with basil and Kalamata olives, the Roast Beef (No. 3) with cheddar cheese and chipotle mayo, and the Very Veggie (No. 9) that’s piled high with avocado, tomato, spinach and artichoke hearts.
In total, Breezeway’s menu offers more than 50 choices. Classic sandwiches range from a Reuben to a BLT, from egg salad to chicken salad, from tuna melt to honey roasted ham. Among the more unique are the Elvis Special sandwich with peanut butter, honey and banana or the Mickey’s Special — a PB&J plus potato chips.
Numbers 37-50 on the menu are the gourmet Nathan’s 100-percent beef hot dog options that come dressed with various combinations of cheeses, cole slaw, pepperoncinis, bacon, onions and chili. Bagels are among the bread choices for any of the sandwiches, and they’re also featured in the seven-item breakfast menu that’s served until 11 a.m.
Breezeway is still a strong supporter of local products, so those bagels are from House of Bagels, and other Central Coast brands include SLO Maid Ice Cream, Taco Works chips, See Canyon cider and a variety of wines and craft beers. As Cummings noted, “anything local we can do, we do.”
That approach carries through to the Farmers Market Salads made with local greens and vegetables. The salads are served with a side of four-bean salad and a slice of bread, and you can also add toppings to make a variation on a chef salad, or add on tuna salad or chicken salad.
One thing Cummings has significantly changed is the available seating. He added a few more tables outside, and the retail space inside is now an open dining area with a family-style lunch counter and some tables. It’s also doing double duty as a wine bar on Friday and Saturday during the 4-6 p.m. happy hours, which offer special pricing on hot dogs and selected beverages.
As for coming up with a name for his new business, that was easy. Cummings explained that all those years he was working nearby, when people asked for a lunch recommendation, “I’d just tell them to go down the breezeway!”
Breezeway Deli & Wine319 Madonna Road, Suite 2 (across from Sears, behind Bed, Bath & Beyond), San Luis Obispo | 544-4440
Hours: Daily, Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; happy hour Friday-Saturday 4-6 p.m.
The scene: Located in the breezeway between two shopping centers, the deli offers to-go convenience in a quiet setting with both indoor and outdoor seating.
The cuisine: Fans of the Crushed Grape deli will find nothing has changed with the “sammies” and salads; delivery and catering options are available.
Expect to spend: Most sandwiches and combos about $8-10; gourmet hot dogs range from $3-8 depending on toppings.