Business Owner: Mike Feldman
Business: Feldman’s Deli
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Meet Mike Feldman, once an operator of a $20 million biotech company, now the owner of Feldman’s Deli, an authentic Jewish deli that will leave your mouth watering and your stomach begging you to go back for more. Mike runs the establishment with his wonderful wife and son. They are only open 29 hours a week, but don’t be fooled, they work 70-hours a week to make sure that you have the best and most authentic experience they can provide.
Where It Started
Mike and his wife moved to Utah from New Jersey 15 years ago, and instantly missed the food they grew up with back east, so they decided to do something about it.
“We decided to reinvent ourselves. My wife grew up in a bakery business in New Jersey, but she didn’t want to do a bakery because of the hours, so we decided to do a restaurant and combine her cooking experience with my business experience. We looked around and said, ‘what’s missing in Utah?’ An authentic Jewish deli.”
So the idea came for creating Feldman’s Deli—a real East Coast Jewish deli. “Having had the experience of growing up with real Jewish delis in New Jersey, we understood what the target was, we had contacts back east and we could get the original products out here that we needed in order to make authentic Jewish deli food, and the rest is history. We had the idea in 2011. We incorporated in August 2011 and started looking for property about that same time. We found this location and took over the lease here in January 2012. We renovated and opened for business in November of 2012 and it’s been going gang busters ever since.”
The Feldman’s Journey
After gaining an understanding of the Jewish population, and the desires of Salt Lake City residents to have an authentic Jewish deli, it was a no-brainer that they needed to bring authentic Jewish deli back to the area.
“There is a significant Jewish history in Utah. In fact, the first Jewish governor in the United States was a Utah governor back in the late 1800 early 1900’s. The Jewish settlers established mercantile businesses up in Ogden. The oldest Jewish synagogue is up in Ogden and there are now 4 synagogues in Utah. The total Jewish population in Utah is about 6000, which is about a half a percent of the entire population.
“Feldman’s not only attracts the Jewish population, but many people that have moved to Utah from somewhere with a Jewish deli. That represents about 5% of the total population—about 150,000 people, most of which live in the Salt Lake area. So that gives us a fairly large population to target. About 90% of the people that come in here are people that moved to Utah and miss the food they grew up with.”
Delis are an American invention that through the years have dotted the country. Some places there are more dots than others, and Utah seems to have too few, but with the way the Feldman’s are doing, it couldn’t hurt to have a few more.
Mike said, “Only recently in the last 7-10 years has there been a resurgence of the Jewish delis, as a matter of fact there’s probably about a dozen of which that have sprung up west of the Mississippi in the last few years, Feldman’s being one of them.” The Feldman’s gamble to bring back something once cherished by Utah residents has paid off. “Our biggest win is the support that we have had from the community and the press. We have been embraced unconditionally, which has allowed us to establish and grow the business so quickly. We opened in November of 2012. In the end of December, City Weekly did the first review on us, and that next week things started going gang busters and we haven’t really had a chance to look back. We’ve just been looking forward.”
Mike’s last words and advice for future business owners is worth listening too: “The devil is in the detail. Be passionate about what you do, because as an entrepreneur and a small businessman you spend an awful lot of time doing what you do. A typical work week for us is 70 hours, even though we are only open 29. If you don’t like what you are doing its not going to be a very good fit and you are going to spend an awful lot of time doing something you don’t like.
Jim Collins who wrote the book, Good to Great, summed it up in three things: First, ‘be passionate about what you do.’ Number two, ‘stick to your core strengths, don’t get distracted or diluted’. That’s the number one reason why businesses fail: They either grow too fast or they start doing things that they aren’t good at. And number three, ‘generate raving fans.’ If you can do those 3 things then you’ve got a good business and those are the 3 core principles that Feldman’s has stuck to from the beginning .”