Cross Street Market's Big Jim's Deli to shut its doors after 40 years
BALTIMORE, Md. (WBFF) -- Anna Epsilantis started working at Big Jim's Deli at Baltimore's Cross Street market in the late 1970's when it was owned by her parents.
More than 38 years later, she's the guiding force of a deli which has serving patrons with corned beef sandwiches, hot dogs, soup and beer.
But Saturday, Epsilantis will serve her last sandwiches before shutting her deli for good.
The longtime owner failed to reach an agreement with a local developer which plans to redevelop the market, which opened in the late 1800's.
In reflecting on her deli and career, Epsilantis said "This is my Cheers, this is my extended family."
She says nearly 300 friends turned out Thursday evening for a farewell party at the market.
"What do you do when 300 people show up and wish you well, I'm just stunned.
"I was raised in this market because my grandfather had a stall here, my parents worked here, and when you see all these little kids running around here, I was a little kid running around here, it's a little hard to swallow," said Epsilantis.
Longtime customers who stopped by for lunch at Big Jim's Friday, were stunned to hear the news that the popular deli was closing.
Carlos Chase, who ordered the last hot dog at Big Jim's, said "There's a sense of community. It means coming together, it's always fun, it's like home."
Andrew Watkins, another longtime customer, says "Big Jim's is an institution and its loss is, you're losing an anchor here, it's going to be rough."
Epsilantis declined to talk about her dispute with Caves Valley Partners, the developer which plans to refurbish the market next year.
But she adds "Everything happens for a reason, one door closes, another door opens. Right now, my plan is...I have no plan."
Arsh Mirmiran, a partner at Towson-based Caves Valley Partners, declined to talk about the dispute with the owner of Big Jim's Deli, but adds "we will be sharing plans in the near future through our social media outlets" (about the planned renovation of Cross Street Market).
Several "pop-up" businesses recently opened at the market which include "Prescription Chicken" and Gertie's Yummy Yogurt Bowls."
Several of those businesses are expected to become permanent tenants after the market is fully renovated.
However the market remains half-empty.
Caves Valley Partners says renovations will begin in the middle of the market in 2018 and existing businesses will remain open during renovations.
Cross Street Market is expected to be fully renovated in 2019.
As for Anna Epsilantis, she says "We've had a great run. I feel so blessed and overwhelmed with all the love and support."