The Goldberg family: Ian, Steven and Jolie.
The Goldberg family: Ian, Steven and Jolie.

Despite current challenges offset with a few adjustments such as slightly reduced hours, Stage Deli continues to thrive.

When the late Jack Goldberg opened Stage Deli with his wife, Harriet, in 1962, most customers patronized delicatessens for hearty, meaty sandwiches on crusty rye bread. These were featured at Stage, but the Goldbergs had higher aspirations. They wanted “to elevate Jewish delis to fine dining but with quick and good service,” explains his son Steven Goldberg, owner and manager of Stage Deli, now in West Bloomfield. 

Stage Deli has always featured delicious sandwiches.
Stage Deli has always featured delicious sandwiches.

Besides its popular food, the original Stage Deli in Oak Park was known for attracting actors from the nearby Northland Theater owned by the Nederlander family. 

“The Nederlanders would bring the cast over after performances; it was a place to see and be seen,” Goldberg says. 

The restaurant’s walls were decorated with Charles Kohl’s caricatures of actors and other celebrities, so it was not a typical Detroit delicatessen.

Steven Goldberg got his start at the restaurant washing dishes at age 7, supervised by kind restaurant employees. Later on, although he worked as a lawyer in Los Angeles for years, he was always interested in food and attended a culinary arts program at UCLA. 

When Jack Goldberg became ill and subsequently died in 1994, Steven took over the restaurant and “gradually added items to appeal to a contemporary palate.” 

Today, corned beef and Reuben sandwiches are still popular menu items, he says, but so are salads, broiled white fish and stir fry dishes.

Choose from traditional deli meats and salads.
Choose from traditional deli meats and salads.

In 1982, the restaurant moved to a much larger location in West Bloomfield, which Goldberg says was initially a bit daunting as the area was just developing. But, from the first day, customers lined up. About a decade ago, large windows and a patio were added. The patio was especially useful when the pandemic struck, as some customers sought outdoor seating as a safer option, a preference that has continued. 

When business closures were mandated in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID, Stage Deli closed for only a half-day, quickly gearing up for a major shift to 100% carryout with curbside pickup. Fortunately, the restaurant already had a strong carryout business. 

“We adapted and were quick on our feet. We added heaters and serve outside if there isn’t a foot of snow,” Goldberg explains. 

Staff members were already wearing masks before the mandate and a special germ-killing air filtration system was installed to counteract COVID. A core group of 20 employees kept the restaurant operating, and there was no COVID transmission at Stage. 

Today, operations have returned to about 70 percent in-person and 30 percent carryout. “Customers trust in our adherence to safety standards,” says Goldberg. 

Stage customers are diverse. Goldberg estimates that about half are Jewish and include businesspeople and families with children. “We accommodate many tastes, but a bigger segment eats comfort foods,” Goldberg says. 

A view of the counter at Stage Deli.
A view of the counter at Stage Deli.

The biggest challenge today is “costs, costs and costs. Food costs have been spiking ridiculously. Labor has been hard to find, and fuel and utility costs have gone up as well,” he says. 

Staffing was challenging even before COVID, which Goldberg attributes in part to fewer young people being interested in part-time jobs during school. “We’ve always paid above minimum wage and offered bonuses during COVID,” he adds.

Like many other businesses, Stage Deli has been challenged by reduced availability from suppliers and delayed deliveries. Goldberg noted the worn chairs in the dining room. New ones were ordered a while ago but have yet to arrive.  

Ian Goldberg, 33, Goldberg’s son, began working at Stage Deli as a dishwasher at age 15. Now he is the front of the house manager — a people-oriented job that he enjoys a great deal. Ian is proud of Stage’s responsiveness to customers’ individual requests. “If we can do it, we will,” he said. Jolie, his 25-year-old sister, also works at Stage. Their brother Perry is an engineer.

Despite current challenges offset with a few adjustments such as slightly reduced hours, Stage Deli continues to thrive. 

Goldberg wants to “maintain the traditions and innovate for the contemporary palate. We live in an era of chain restaurants and fast-serve restaurants. We’re kind of an anachronism and we’re proud of it.”  

Do You Know?

If you know a local Jewish-owned, for-profit business that has been in operation for 60 or more years that would like to be profiled, please contact Jackie Headapohl at jheadpohl@thejewishnews.com. 

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