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Q & A with Sanibel Deli owner Jeff Weigel

By Staff | Jul 17, 2009

We detect a northern accent. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town outside of Buffalo, N.Y. called East Aurora. (The headquarters for Fisher Price Toys is there).

What brought you to Sanibel?

We moved to Sanibel after we sold a restaurant we owned in Syracuse, N.Y. We have family that lives here on the island. We wanted to move near family, so the choices were here, Detroit or stay in N.Y. It was pretty much an easy decision. We heard there isn’t any snow here.

What do you like most about living on Sanibel?

The small hometown feeling is great. Once your body gets completely numb to the bug bites its great!

We know you own and operate the Sanibel Deli and Coffee Factory. What inspired you to open a shop on the island?

I wanted to open a business that really was still essential in this economy. Sometimes shopping and eating out on the island can feel like paying for the concessions at an amusement park or airport. We felt there was a need to offer great food at very affordable prices. We believed this would do well with the locals and people who work here on the island. It turns out that with today’s economy, its become very popular with the tourists too! Oh yeah, did I mention the service?? Outstanding!

What do you love most about running the business?

I love seeing the people in our community that live here and work here every day. They are great people. I also like meeting the people from all over the world. Sanibel is truly a melting pot of people!

Word has it you are a pretty good cook. Where did you learn to cook?

There is a book out called Cooking For Dummies…..just kidding. I’ve had the opportunity to have had some great cooks work for me over the years. I don’t mean traditionally trained chefs, but rather people who have worked hard on the cooking lines over the years and have passed on a lot of family traditions and recipes. These are the real cooks. Not franchise cooks. People that measure by looking at things with their eye. People that want to truly be proud about what they are serving. I’ve listened to these people and try every day to use some of what they’ve all taught me. Nothing is more rewarding then seeing someone smile when they eat something you’ve made.

We hear you like to include funny jokes with your daily email to customers regarding lunch specials. What kind of response do you get?

It’s funny because at first a few people didn’t understand why we put jokes in our emails with our specials. Now when we send one out without a joke people are genuinely disappointed. Its so easy to be gloomy and miserable in today’s world. Why not laugh. I know I would rather be remembered for making you laugh than someone who was always miserable. Laughter is the secret to love and staying young.

What drew you into the restaurant

business?

That’s easy; the short hours and working whenever you feel like it. Oh wait, I mean the medication. Seriously, I like meeting the people and hearing their stories. Everyone has a story. Some are just better at telling it than others. I like to cook too. The restaurant concept is simple. I won’t tell you what it is though because there are some that don’t get it.

We hear you have other work aside from the deli. What else do you do?

I work in a family business called All Island Glass & Aluminum. We sell hurricane windows and doors and all other manners of glass products. The business is owned by Sanibel residents and we bring a different approach to the contracting business. We all have professional backgrounds and treat the business the same way. Everyone involved in the business comes from a strong business background whether it be in accounting, IT, engineering or consulting. We’re different, and that is a pleasant surprise to our customers. With hurricanes being such a big influence on our lives, we believe that selling products that protect us and our homes is more than just that. It is working with customers now and later to ensure that what they are trying to do meets codes and more importantly is the right protection for their homes.

What is your educational background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in engineering from a small school in the upper Adirondack’s called Clarkson University. I also have a Masters degree in business from Indiana University.

When you are not working what do with your spare time? Any unique hobbies or passions?

I have my pilot’s license and instrument rating. I love airplanes and aviation. I also like to exercise whether it be through playing sports or just running. I grew up playing ice hockey and played all through college. I miss that the most from living up north. Sanibel needs an ice rink.

Share a little bit about your family life. Any kids, pets or pet rocks?

I have three kids: Madison,12 Noah, 10 and MIlena, 4. The older two go to the Sanibel School and my youngest is at the Children’s Center. We had a dog that was 17 1/2 pass a way recently.

You seem like a pretty easy going fellow. What’s something most folks would be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t know. I like to experience as much as I can. I love music. I have thousands (maybe 7,000) CDs. I was a disc jockey in college. I get bored very easy. When I was young I worked one summer at an amusement park as an age, weight and birthday month guesser.

What are your long/short-term goals?

My long term goal is really to pay my mortgage. Although I guess some days that’s my short term goal too. I really want to grow both of the businesses I’m involved in. The deli has so much potential on the island. I want to implement a full allergy free menu, do delivery, stay open for dinner. I want to do it all. My goals are to take advantage of every opportunity I can while giving my family the best of me. That’s possible right?

You appear to be happy and jovial. Do you have any words of wisdom for living a happy life?

Comfortable shoes and a good tube of chapstick in your pocket at all times! Seriously, try it!