LAS CRUCES – After more than three decades as an integral part of the Las Cruces restaurant scene, the Corner Deli on the North Main closes its doors on September 1st.
Owners Mark and Cindy Stephens announced on Facebook on Monday their decision to close their deli and get out of business. Mark will be 63 years old this year and the couple’s children have grown up. He said they were willing to spend more time with family.
The deli was open six days a week, leaving them only one day to rest or travel and return to Las Cruces. Thursday will be the first day of their retirement, and Mark said they plan to travel to Portales to see their daughter cheer at the first soccer game of the season at Eastern New Mexico University.
“It’s scary and nervous because you’ve been doing something for so long and getting so used to it,” said Mark. “There’s a point where we just have to decide it’s time to move on to something else, and we’ve both had a lot of conversations about it.”
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Corner Deli opened 31 years ago in the small building on the southwest corner of North Main Street and Madrid Road – hence the name of the restaurant. They spent 14 years outside the building until the owner of the building sold it. The couple closed the business for a year until their current location – a mall on the same property – became available.
Because of its proximity to Mayfield High School, the deli has become a favorite with high school students and alumni. Mark is a Mayfield alumnus himself. When a Las Cruces Bulldawg visits, he is sure to be teased good-naturedly.
Steven Gonzales, a Mayfield graduate, said he had visited the restaurant with his father since the deli was in its original location. It closed while he was at Mayfield in his junior year and reopened his senior year.
“We didn’t miss a day,” said Gonzales. “I always came in and put my big # 15 on the grill with extra cucumbers, avocado and Swiss. Every Friday, without a doubt. “
The number 15 was passed down from Gonzales father, and for the past several years Gonzales has been able to share his favorite sandwich place with his own children. Gonzales, his wife Kelly, and their 3 year old son Rio made the last visit to the deli on Tuesday. Gonzales congratulated Mark on his retirement and Rio nibbled on chips.
Many Las Crucens had the same idea on Tuesday. A line waited for Mark and Cindy before they opened at 10am and wrapped around the side of the building for most of the morning. Many waited in line for up to an hour. Around 1:30 p.m., the deli ran out of buns and there was wheat and rye bread left over.
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Clay Rinker and Paul Martandale barely made it through the doors before the breeding announcement was made.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Rinker of the closure. He and Martandale were nearby when they saw the line in front of the deli. They decided to wait for a sandwich when they learned the shop was closing. This was Martandale’s first time at the deli, but they easily accepted the 45 minute wait.
Mark stated that he had enough inventory to cover Tuesday and Wednesday, but the closure was announced a little early. He said they would take stock and decide whether to order bread for a possible half day on Wednesday.
He thanked the community and all customers who walked through their doors. He said he enjoyed seeing several generations of patrons grow.
Although the Stephenses are no longer behind a counter, you can see them in the stands at a local soccer or basketball game.
Leah Romero is the trend reporter for Las Cruces Sun-News and can be reached on Twitter at 575-418-3442, [email protected] or @rromero_leah.