The decision to close South Side Deli’s High Street location isn’t one Billy and Amy Barnett made lightly.
“This wasn’t something that happened overnight,” Billy Barnett said.
The couple bought the deli, which started out in a 400-square-foot building on East South Street near LeTort Elementary School, seven years ago and grew it to a two-store operation with locations on High Street and at 333 B Street.
The couple announced the closure of the High Street location on Wednesday, a day shy of the restaurant’s fifth anniversary downtown. In a Facebook post announcing the closing, the couple said there was no longer enough business to continue given the new dining options downtown.
“Over the past six to eight months, I’ve noticed a big difference,” Barnett said.
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In the five years since South Side made the move, the number of restaurants downtown has increased as has the number of fast-food restaurants within reasonable drive of downtown. Chick-fil-A, Firehouse Subs and Five Guys all opened at the intersection of Noble Boulevard and South Hanover Street, while restaurants like Square Bean Coffee, Spoons, Yak and Yeti and others have set up shop downtown, Barnett said.
That not only gives more options to the restaurant’s target customers for the High Street location, which includes county employees and Dickinson College students, but it also added to the challenge of hiring qualified staff. It was always a challenge to find staff who could work the hours the restaurant needed them to work, but the national chains drew away qualified candidates with higher wages than what a family-owned business can offer, Barnett said.
The couple talked about closing the High Street location off and on for a few months, but they decided it was time when they recently had their lowest grossing day in years at the store.
Now, Barnett said he will turn his attention to both the growing B Street location and the couple’s growing children. The children were young when they first bought South Side Deli, and are now old enough to get involved with school and sports activities, he said.
When the dust settles from the High Street closing, Barnett said he will be able to start implementing plans for the B Street location that had been put aside while running two restaurants. Those plans include delivery and online ordering.