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REFLECTIONS ON 30 YEARS AT THE SLICER

humanbites_fairwinds1 Warren Abrahamson with his daughter, Corinne, and some neighborhood clients at Fairwinds Deli in Fair Haven. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Bites1_SmallFor 30 years, Fairwinds Deli has been serving up belly-busting lunches in Fair Haven. By the end of the summer, the aprons and slicers will be boxed up and moved out. But this is nothing to lose your lunch over. Really. Owner Warren Abrahamson is riding a zephyr, not a squall, out of 770 River Road. Abrahamson tells redbankgreen he’s renovating property just a short walk away, at 698 798 River Road, and will open a new and improved Fairwinds Deli.

“It’ll be bigger. It’ll be my own,” said Abrahamson, 46.

In this edition of Human Bites, redbankgreen sits down with Abrahamson, of Middletown, to feed him some questions.

What’s your background? How did you come to own the deli?
I went to Holmdel High School, graduated in 1982. I did sheetrocking, sheet-rocked houses for about three years, and between that I worked for my father on and off because he owned the deli. He bought the deli in 1980, so I was 16. I used to work weekends here. Then he had an accident, he broke his leg. So I had to come in here and help him run the show. So I did that, and after he got better, I had stayed. Then he passed away and I just took it over to help my mother out. Since then, I bought it, so I’ve owned it since 1990.

Did you have a favorite neighborhood deli growing up?
There was what used to be called the Pioneer Store in Hazlet. I used to ride my bicycle there because I was from Holmdel. It was just mainly a small grocery store, had candy, so we had visited it.

Describe your typical morning routine.
We start at 7. We do, during the school year, prepare school lunches for the Fair Haven kids. They call between 7 and 9, so pretty much I’m answering phones for two hours.

Yes, I hear it ringing off the hook now.
Well school is out, so this is just business. So after we take the orders, we have two hours to make them. Then we get done with the school lunches at 11 and them we prep for regular lunch. Then after lunch hour we get the school kids in for their snacks, then we close at 5.

humanbites_fairwinds3_small“Wish You Were Here!” Fairwinds Deli customers send Abrahamson postcards of their travels. (Click to enlarge)

Are kids a big part of your clientele?
Kids have become big. I guess with everything. It used to be work crews, now it’s work kids. Work crews have depleted.

Who makes the sandwiches at home?
We don’t eat sandwiches at home (laughs). Sandwiches are for lunch and I’m here at lunch. We don’t have sandwiches at night for dinner. My kids always made their own lunch growing up, so if they wanted to eat they’d make their own lunch, since the first grade. But they’re basic, you know, cheese on white. It’s real basic.

Does Fairwinds use any secret family recipes?
You never like to give up your secrets. People ask all the time, what’s in this? What’s in that? I had one friend watch me, he stood there in the kitchen for a half-hour, then he goes, “Now I know” (laughs). So he found out how to make chicken pillows.

Chicken what?
Chicken pillows. It’s like a chicken cordon bleu but it’s baked instead of fried. He goes, “Now I know.” He jokes about it all the time.

What’s the oddest deli combination ever requested?
Well it’s not odd, it’s just become popular. They call it The Diesel. It’s chicken, bacon and cheddar, barbecue sauce and honey mustard, hot peppers, lettuce and tomato. It’s a pretty big sandwich.

Have you ever served a celebrity?
We used to have Dr. Ruth coming in for a while. It was kind of fun having her come in here, and people asking her the sex questions. We had Geraldo when he used to be on the river. We used to do catering for his film crew, when he used to do the shoots at his house. We had Bruce Springsteen a few times. When he came in he was looking for these baby bottle pops — it was a candy, like a pacifier you dipped into sugar. He said (to his children) “Yeah, if you guys want these bottle pops, you’ve got to sing the song.” He made his kids sing the baby bottle pops song. It was cute. That was years ago, too. Then one time he came in for lunch and I guess a few of the kids saw he was here and they must’ve ran back to the playground and said Bruce is in the deli. And then I must’ve been flooded with 20 kids. He signed all their autographs. It was nice.

What are your least and most favorite deli chores?
This is my way of life. There’s nothing here I don’t like doing. I know people working here, there’s certain things they don’t like, like cleaning the grease traps. The best part has got to be counting the money at the end of the day.

Do you have an indispensable deli gadget?
It’s a tough one. We need our knives, our slicer. Refrigeration. Is that a gadget? Plenty of times Fair Haven loses power. That’s a gadget you can’t do without.

Farthest location Fairwinds has gotten a postcard from?
I guess it would be the China Wall over there. They’re from all over the world. Russia, Japan, Taiwan. They’re from my customersY I joked with them, I’d say “you’re going away? Send me a postcard.” And they did. They started sending them, so I started putting them up.

What deli sandwich would you take with you to a deserted island?
I would take the Italian combo.

Why?
Because it’s cold. It’s crisp. It’s just satisfying.

What’s more important, good shoes or good food?
Good shoes. Well you’re on your feet all day. You’re not going to enjoy your lunch if your feet are hurting.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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