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By REBECA KUROPATWA
A north end icon that moved downtown 30 years ago is no more...for now.
Owned and operated by the Levinson family, Garry’s Deli (deli/restaurant/catering business) has been serving Portage and Main customers for the last three decades.


But when their lease was up, Winnipeg Square management and the Levinsons could not come to terms over a new lease, so the Levinsons decided it was time for a new chapter of the family business.
Garry and Rhonda Levinson decided to open Garry’s Deli back in 1978 on Jefferson and Sinclair. As it happens, that was two days before their daughter, Lisa Levinson’s first birthday.
Family business
Lisa Levinson (38) and her sister, Stacey Bazak, have been a part of the business since Day One.
“I worked there as a small child,” said Levinson. “I remember bagging bagels when they came in, still hot.”
Levinson became a full-time employee a week after her high school graduation – 20 years ago – and began her climb up the business totem pole. She took on the role of general manager shortly before her father passed away 12 years ago.
“After he passed, my sister and I took over the business,” Levinson said. “My sister did a lot of the bookkeeping side of the business and I did more customer relations, working with the vendors, being the general manager.”
Deli’s evolution
Back in 1978, Garry’s Deli was a north end tradition, a grocery store and deli lunch spot. It was very popular among the community, serving up kosher-style soul food, like chopped liver, herring, knishes, and bagels.
“Then, my father decided there was opportunity downtown,” recalled Levinson. “I remember as a small child of eight-years-old, him taking my sister and me to the new location in Winnipeg Square. It was just walls and cement flooring. He told us this was where he was building a new restaurant.”
The Winnipeg Square location is where Garry’s Deli remained over the last 30 years. Bazak and Levinson ran it well, with the help of their mother, who Levinson described as having been, “the heart and soul of the business.”
About 20 years ago, Garry decided to sell the north end location and focus on the downtown venue. “It was a different clientele,” said Levinson. “You’re now dealing with business clientele. You’d see suits coming in everyday, as opposed to families coming in to go grocery shopping. A lot of our focus then became catering. Our tagline was, ‘Business Class Catering.’
“We prided ourselves on all our homemade soups, homemade everything. People still ask us how we make our Greek and Caesar salad dressing, saying we need to bottle it.”
Closure and move
As the end of their lease was coming up, the Levinsons worked to negotiate a new one, but found they could not find workable terms with the landlord. “We decided we wanted to leave on a high note and start a new chapter in our lives,” said Levinson.
“It came as a huge shock to everyone. I’ve been overwhelmed with phone calls, e-mails, texts, facebook messages, and other social media messages…saying that they were very sad to see us go. They weren’t sure where they were going to get their morning coffee or their Greek salad at lunchtime, or the best corned beef sandwich they’d had. It was shocking.”
Some of Garry’s Deli’s customers had been coming to the establishment for longer than Levinson has worked there.
“After I was closing up, I had people coming to say goodbye and crying to me that they’re going to miss us,” she said. “You get to know people. You see the same people every day – one, two, or three times a day for their coffee, breakfast, and lunch. You get to know who they are and they get embedded into your family.
“We’ve always looked at our customers not just as customers, but as extended family. The same went for our employees that had worked for our family for between 20 and 29 years. They were definitely an extended part of our family.”
Starting anew
Without yet divulging too many details, Levinson said the family business will definitely be continuing well into the future within the restaurant industry. “I’m in the works right now looking for a new venue,” she said. “My sister and I will both be part of it.”
While the new place will not continue with the “Garry’s Deli” name, it will more than likely run along the same lines of what they have been successfully doing over the years. Stay tuned for more news on this latest venture in the very near future.