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Chuck’s Deli plans to reopen after fire destroys beloved restaurant

By Richard Evans

Chuck’s Deli is currently down, but they are not out.

“We’re optimistic [to reopen] in about six weeks. I’m thinking it will be March if there’s no hold up,” said Jason Shillings. He and his wife Sonya own the business.

“The whole time we’ve been planning to rebuild. We’re just thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to rebuild,” he said.

The Harriman landmark, which has been open for decades, was heavily damaged by fire on Dec. 28.

On Friday morning, Shillings took a brief break from working on the building to discuss the future of Chuck’s Deli. He said he is in the process of demolishing the parts of the building damaged by the fire, noting that should take a couple of days to complete. Insurance released the building Thursday and Shillings went to work immediately.

“We’ve got a lot done in a day and a half,” he said. He noted that three off-duty members of the Harriman Fire Department were helping with the demo work.

Shilling said he has a company who will do the actual construction and he is trying to get all of the upstairs tore out as well. He expressed his gratitude to everyone that is helping — in particular the Harriman Fire Department — and the outpouring of support from the community.

Shillings said the interior of the building will look very different when construction is finished.

“Everything from top to bottom is going to be new. We lost everything in the fire — even the pictures on the wall. Those have a lot of meaning to them and I’m trying to get those restored if I can.”

He said his wife did not want a new building.

“She wanted this deli. It’s [the building] completely gutted. The only thing remaining unchanged will be the exterior block,” Shillings said.

The deli will have a new look when it reopens.

The booths will be gone, replaced by updated tables, providing not only more seating but opening up the place more as well.

Wooden shelves will be replaced by stainless steel. Counter seating will also be changed slightly.

Storage rooms will be completely removed. The upstairs area will be used for storage.

“It will be totally revamped.”

Shillings said cause of the fire was somewhere around the range hood/exhaust.

“I never heard the pinpoint but it was somewhere in that area.”

A grand reopening is planned when the rebuild is finished.