After More Than 46 Years in East Windsor, Tiger's Deli Will Close Its Doors
Owners said the customers will be missed most.
After opening a small luncheonette in the first floor of their house, Ralph and Doris Tiger needed more space, so they broke into the restaurant business.
And now more than 46 years after Tiger’s Deli opened in East Windsor, and four locations later, the Tiger family decided it’s time to retire.
“My customers have been the loyalist and the greatest, and without them we would not have been here this long,” Ralph Tiger said. “It’s been a long, happy trail.”
Tiger’s Deli is truly a family business. All four of the Tiger’s daughters have at some point worked at the deli. Ralph’s granddaughter, Mary Lee Aruta, has grown up at the deli since she was two weeks old, and still works there today.
“I haven’t known anything else,” 17-year-old Mary Lee said.
One of Ralph's daughters, Claudia Aruta, said two years ago they decided when the lease was up at the end of 2011 her parents would retire and they would either sell the business or close completely, but the business didn’t sell. Jan. 31 will be the last day the deli is open.
“I love it, its not that I don’t like it, we have wonderful, wonderful customers and lots and lots of relationships,” she said.
Claudia said she is going to miss sitting and talking with customers, learning about their story and seeing generations of families come through the doors.
“It’s been a great run,” she said.
Ralph reminisced about people lining up outside one of the former locations, which had a bakery, at 6:30 a.m. just to get fresh, hot rolls out of the oven. And he remembered the time he implemented self-serve coffee.
The idea came to him when it was getting too messy behind the counter while fixing customer’s coffee, so he tried putting it out for them to make their own, however they liked it. Ralph had never seen this anywhere before, but figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot.
So at the beginigng of the year in 1972, he ordered 100,000 branded coffee cups that had black and white stripes around the cup, a picture of a tiger and the deli’s name printed on it. By November, they were sold out and he decided it was a hit.
“If they had it, I didn’t know about it,” Tiger said, noting he hadn’t seen self-serve coffee anywhere in his travels.
Ralph also said several big winning lottery tickets had been sold at the deli, including a $15 million dollar ticket.
Once Tiger’s Deli closes, bus and lottery tickets will be sold at Muncheez.
Customers could always count on Tiger’s to be open, rain or shine. Open seven days a week, the deli only closed five days a year.
“I never missed a day because of weather,” Ralph said, remembering they even opened when the governor declared a state of emergency.
Since the announcement of the closing, Ralph said he has been getting phone calls from customers, even from those who have moved away and heard the news from Facebook.
“I’ve really enjoyed the business, it’s been great for my family and for me,” he said.
Customers stopped in throughout the day telling the family how much they enjoy the deli, and one said, “It’s like the end of an era.”
T-shirts adorning the deli’s name are being sold for $10, and everything else in the deli is for sale.