Business Connection

The City Center — Opie’s Deli & Office celebrates 15 years and counting

- BY JAMIE FLEURY STAFF WRITER

The City Center — Jim and Judy Vinall are celebratin­g their 16th year at The City Center, home of Opie’s Deli & The Office. Jim is a third generation business owner in downtown Plymouth. “My dad had a business downtown. My grandfathe­r had one, so it’s meant a lot to me. It was my playground when I grew up.”

They opened the establishm­ent in 2006. Within the first five years more than 10 other downtown businesses opened and closed. Judy lamented, “That is sad to not see so many families and kids downtown like he remembers. This was where everybody came. Just downtown.”

They worked on restoratio­ns for more than a year before it was ready. Judy said that Jim didn’t let the fact that it needed work deter him. “Jim loves Plymouth. He was supposed to retire.”

The lack of traffic, both cars and people had Judy concerned. “I remember being down here on Saturdays and Sundays and there was an old planter out here kind of low and I would come out here and sit. I’d go back in and say, ‘Jim, what are we doing? There hasn’t even been a car go by. There was not a single car parked on the street — on a Saturday or Sunday — nothing! You might only see 6 or 7 cars drive through town. I was like, ‘What are we doing? This is a ghost

town! This is crazy?” she laughed.

Jim said, “The whole downtown was falling apart too.” But Jim loved Plymouth and does to this day. Judy noted that she believes their commitment and growth motivated people to keep at it though the venture was intimidati­ng. “I think it motivated some other people to do some things then. But it was scary. I really had my doubts.”

The Vinall family continued to serve customers and support vendors through the COVID pandemic. “It was fun to see the people who still patronized us even though things were tough.” said Judy.

Opie’s Deli is the only restaurant for at least a 13 mile radius that serves Boar’s Head meats and cheese. “That’s a big deal. We were very lucky to get Boar’s Head. That anchored us in quality.”

It was important to Jim and Judy to continue to support their vendors. “We wanted to keep our vendors. We wanted to keep that cycle going. Boar’s Head has been very good to us and we are very lucky that he keeps us when we are such a small town. He’s very faithful to us. I believe we’ve been good to him too.” said Judy.

Their son AJ prepares food on the grille in The Alley and trains staff. Some employees work hard to learn, others are difficult to train because they think they don’t have much to learn. Judy laughed, “AJ has a lot of patience with people.”

Judy noted the family bond as one of the establishm­ent’s strengths. “I think it helps that we’re family.” She laughed, “That makes a big difference because we always show up!”

The Vinall family has a few key employees who have remained faithful for years. Finding additional support staff can be a challenge. Judy said, “We always need good employees and they are very hard to find.”

She emphasized that it’s important for people to have ambition, a customer-service mindset and a willingnes­s to learn. “Sometimes the restaurant industry doesn’t attract career oriented people, but you really need to have goals in life if you are going to make it in this business.”

Customer service can be challengin­g. “Being a server is hard and taxing. I also think that in the deli where we make the food to order some days it’s just an incredibly fast pace and you have to be able to process all that and it’s not easy. I think that a lot of people think that it’s really easy work. I’ve been at a lot of jobs in my life but this is the hardest job I’ve ever had as far as taxing. It changes every five minutes.”

Persistenc­e is more important than perfection. “There have been people who have worked so hard and have been good workers but it was hard for them to learn everything. Some of them have been some of our best workers, those who have come in and didn’t think they could do it. They can.” said Judy.

Most everything is handmade so a willingnes­s to learn and a dedication to quality are critical attributes for staff. “The one thing we really pride ourselves in is that everything we have we try to make ourselves. All of the sides we make. Like the tuna and chicken salad, we make it.” said Jim.

The only fried food served is the tenderloin on Tuesday and the parmesan french fries available as a side to the hamburger special on Wednesday. Everything else is smoked, grilled or prepared fresh another way.

AJ said, “We have a different nightly special Tuesday through Friday. You can eat something different every night of the week you come here.” Monday patrons are welcome to choose from a wide away of Boar’s Head meat and cheese sandwiches with unique bread and homemade sides.

“Tenderloin Tuesday” gained regional recognitio­n from the Indianapol­is Monthly in May ranking Opie’s tenderloin in the top ten tenderloin sandwiches in Indiana. “We cut the pork tender

loin ourselves. We tenderize it.” said Jim. Judy added, “We do it from start to finish.” They don’t purchase pre-packaged tenderloin­s. They pound the meat themselves.

Local tenderloin fan Lyn Ward who encourages friends to try one said, “It’s always a handful but worth it!”

Wednesday evening patrons are invited to savor the taste of a 1/2 lb. grilled Angus beef burger for $6. Parmesan french fries can be ordered on the side for an additional cost.

Thursday and Friday, AJ and Soren Houin fire up the grill in The Alley and patrons are invited to choose from a menu of smoked wings to tuna steak.

The chicken for the chicken salad is smoked. The chicken wings are smoked, not fried, and served with dipping sauce. “It all involves a lot of time.” said Judy who will find smiling from the kitchen when you visit for dinner on a Friday evening.

Judy noted that there are times when they run out of certain products or sides. “Sometimes people get frustrated when they run out of certain things, but that’s the nature of the homemade business. It can be a challenge to know how much demand there will be for a certain item. Judy said, “We can’t just open a carton and dish out potato salad. This is the craziest business in the world. One day 20 people might want the potato salad as a side. Then you might go two weeks and nobody wants it and you throw the next two batches out! That’s just the way it is. So if we are out of something — that’s because everyone else was hungry for it — just like you are! At the same time!” Judy laughed.

The bar in The Office offers a wide variety of 32 craft beers on tap. “Which is unusual for a small town.” said Jim. “The closest one is South Bend.”

The City Center, home of Opie’s Deli, The Office, The Patio, and The Annex is available for lunch or dinner with friends, for events including showers, large groups, and banquets, and to say hi to the Vinall family and staff as they continue to serve guests from 114 North Michigan St., downtown Plymouth.

Individual­s who love working with people and are willing to learn the art of sandwich making to bartending are welcome to apply. Anyone who likes homemade food from a local small business are welcome to visit.

If you aren’t sure where to sit, ask the deli sandwich artisans and they will take you to your table. Go to opiesdeli.com for more informatio­n.

 ?? PHOTO BY JAMIE FLEURY ?? Say Opie’s! Left to right: Kim Lawrence, JD McHargue, Quincey Hess, AJ Vinall, Susan Bennett, and Jim Vinall
PHOTO BY JAMIE FLEURY Say Opie’s! Left to right: Kim Lawrence, JD McHargue, Quincey Hess, AJ Vinall, Susan Bennett, and Jim Vinall
 ?? PHOTO BY JAMIE FLEURY ?? The Tuesday Tenderloin special is large enough for two. Order an extra homemade side or chips if you’d like.
PHOTO BY JAMIE FLEURY The Tuesday Tenderloin special is large enough for two. Order an extra homemade side or chips if you’d like.
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 ?? PHOTO BY JAMIE FLEURY ?? The Alley is out back bordering the patio where “the grille” food is prepared and is open Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. AJ Vinall and Soren Houin grilling in “The Alley”. Deli sandwiches from peanut butter and jelly, homemade tuna or chicken salad, or a large variety of Boar’s Head meats and cheeses are available at The Deli from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Homemade sides including but not limited to potato salad, cole slaw, pasta salad and broccoli salad are available on the side.
PHOTO BY JAMIE FLEURY The Alley is out back bordering the patio where “the grille” food is prepared and is open Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. AJ Vinall and Soren Houin grilling in “The Alley”. Deli sandwiches from peanut butter and jelly, homemade tuna or chicken salad, or a large variety of Boar’s Head meats and cheeses are available at The Deli from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Homemade sides including but not limited to potato salad, cole slaw, pasta salad and broccoli salad are available on the side.

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