Genuine Concepts remodels Downtown Deli as a corner bar

The original Downtown Deli sign (Nicole Neri/DD)
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Downtown Deli is set to open its third incarnation in early December, this time as a corner bar under Genuine Concepts.

Owner Tucker Woodbury said the space will be open from early morning through the late night, serving breakfast and 50 cent coffee in the morning, lighter foods and quick brown-bag lunches in the afternoon, and comfort food and alcohol at night.

Logan Purser, Director of Operations, said Genuine Concepts is working with Cave Creek roastery ROC2 to find a viable supply to do this with.

“We really wanted to build the kind of bar that every downtown has that we didn’t think Phoenix had for some reason,” Woodbury said. “Just that place you stop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, hang out late night after work… It’s really hard to articulate, but just kind of that warm, friendly corner bar that we really didn’t feel Phoenix had.”

Downtown Deli’s history began in 1969 when it was a deli open until right after lunchtime, and remained so for 46 years until rent rose too high and it closed in 2015.

Genuine Concepts soon leased the property, using the original deli for a short-term partnership with Short Leash Hotdogs. The music venue Valley Bar rests underneath – another establishment started by Charlie Levy, owner of downtown music venues like Crescent Ballroom and The Van Buren.

Short Leash Hotdogs closed that location after four months, and for two years Genuine Concepts leased an empty space.

“We were stuck on a lease, and what are you gonna do with your lease? Let’s do this,” said Woodbury. “It wasn’t out of desperation. I mean when you see kind of what’s happening downtown, the successes we’ve had at other places… we’re big believers in downtown.”

Genuine Concepts has had a hand in several venues downtown, including The Vig, Cobra Arcade, Crescent Ballroom, Valley Bar and The Van Buren.

Genuine Concepts Director of Operations Logan Purser laughs with Downtown Deli owner Tucker Woodbury inside Downtown Deli Nov. 9, 2017.

“There’s kind of a land rush down here, and we were here early,” said Woodbury. “Now that others are coming we wanted to make sure we kind of put our stake in the ground and held onto a spot.”

This newest venture goes back to the original Downtown Deli name.

“Even though the Downtown Deli is a little bit of misnomer, we love old buildings and we love old Phoenix. This thing has been around so long, it’s just like why change it?” said Woodbury. “Let’s just leave that up there and people can sort out the experience when they come in.”

The space features a long bar, dark wood booths, red brick walls, and warm, direct lighting. Marketing manager Jessie Palm said they will keep the original Downtown Deli sign.

“The vibe of that sign alone is kind of the inspiration for the vibe of the whole place,” Palm said.

Purser said Downtown Deli will serve comfort foods like grilled cheeses, some lighter foods like salads, and a few all-day breakfast items from recipes by Executive Chef Justin Woodard. There will also be a pastry menu, and weekly rotating pies.

They will likely also feature a few nods to the old Downtown Deli, including a Reuben and an egg salad sandwich. Woodbury said the rest of the original Downtown Deli menu was “antiquated, just stuff nobody eats anymore.”

Woodbury also plans to fill one wall of the space with caricatures of regulars and of people who are “part of the fabric of downtown,” drawn by downtown artist Jeremy Drysdale.

“Whether it’s going to be a great success or not, it’s really more of a romantic notion of doing this cool little corner bar,” Woodbury said. “Hopefully things will pan out and it’ll resonate and people will frequent it.”

Contact the reporter at nhneri@asu.edu.

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