Since Sept. 20, visitors to Henderson Center in search of lunch have been greeted by a sign on the door of Deo's Sandwich Shop announcing its closure. It reads, "It was an honor serving our community in Henderson Center and we thank you for your warm support throughout the years!" Those years added up to about 47, with the torch passed to new owners here and there, the lastest being Joe Sandoval, who ran the shop for three years with his mother Julianne Gilman. But after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, keeping it going just wasn't feasible.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
The recently shuttered Deo's Sandwich Shop.
“It was a kind of labor of love,” says Sandoval, a former Cal Fire firefighter who at first considered making the space into a taco or ramen shop before sticking with tradition. He and his mother kept it old school with a menu of hearty sandwiches befitting a shop with a pass-through window to the bar next door. “People had memories of back to when they were kids … I think it harkens back to a different age,” he says, adding that it was a great experience running a true neighborhood establishment.
“The fallout from everything is real for people," he says. Deo's had been operating under shelter-in-place protocols about two months but sales were “dismal to the point where we couldn’t continue.” He says that while restaurant margins are always slim, a shop as small as Deo's can't bear a 10 percent drop, much less the sharp declines the industry is seeing across the board.
Sandoval is hopeful this isn't the end of Deo's, even if it's the end of his tenure as owner — also on the door is a for sale sign and contact information. While he's hesitant to pass on a business in the middle of a pandemic, he's on the lookout for the right person to take it on. The same small scale that made the business vulnerable could be an advantage in terms of reviving it, he says. “You find a salmon on the banks of the river and it’s kind of gasping for water, and you can throw it back in the river and it survives.”