By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
By noon Saturday, the sidewalk outside 798 River Road had become a clutter of beach cruisers, ten-speeds and BMX-es, indicating what was going on inside.
“Madness,” said Warren Abrahamson, owner of the borough’s lunchtime hub for more than 30 years.
As customers shouted compliments to Abrahamson on his new digs, young employees kept taking orders and wrapping them up fast enough to beat back the snaking line inside the fresh new space.
It was pretty clear an expansion had been in order for this Fair Haven institution.
“It’s all positive” feedback, Abrahamson said. “It’s nice. All good things.”
About a year behind schedule, the move down the block, from a hemmed in market at 770 River, to a pristine and spacious post at 798 River, was worth the wait, Abrahamson said.
Not only are the denizens of the old Fairwinds back at the counter, but newcomers have arrived, too, he said.
“I think we see more (people) just out of curiosity,” Abrahamson said. “Hopefully we’ll keep that up.”
To anybody who’s ordered a Diesel from Abrahamson in the past 30 years, the change is unmistakable, beginning with elbow room.
Gone is the railcar layout, in which the space between the deli case and racks of potato chips could, uncomfortably, fit two deep. The aesthetic quirkiness of sun-faded postcards from around the world lined the back walls, is gone, as well.
This is Fairwinds 2.0, with shiny floor tile, fresh paint, a coffee station with enough room to pour sugar into your cup and a seating area surrounded by flat-screen TVs.
And with the new space, about 2,800-square-feet as opposed to the old deli’s 1,400, comes an expansion of the menu.
Abrahamson’s added a separate area dedicated to ice cream; behind the counter, a fryer, a flat-top grill for burgers and hot dogs; and, outside, seating on a small patio between the deli and the recently renovated Smart Start preschool.
What hasn’t been lost in the move is the deli’s charm, customers said. Above all, a Fair Haven tradition has continued, where kids or entire families, even can hop on the bike, drop it out front and grab a bite.
“I love the fact that it’s like a hub. All the kids are here,” said Patti Phelan Clapp, who grew up going to Fairwinds and, on Thursday, was with her children ordering lunch. “It’s fun for me to watch the growth, and they’re a wonderful family. There’s so much change going on, it’s nice to see something stay the same, but expand.”