Alexander’s Deli preps for ‘soft’ opening

UPDATE: On Friday morning, at 9 am, Alexander’s Deli reopened its doors. The first smiling customer was not far behind. And the next, and the next and the next….

You can’t keep a good store down. And a great one? Deal out the worst you can—yes, a devastating fire should do the trick—and four months later, watch it rise again.

Alexander’s Deli will open its doors to customers sometime in the next few days. Exactly when, depends on what time the walk-in refrigerator installer shows up and when food supplies are delivered and…well, you get the idea. At midweek, there were still too many unknowns to say for certain.

It’s what owners Tim and Betsy Alexander call “a soft opening,” preceding their grand opening sometime in July.

“Tell them we’ll open Friday…or Saturday…or maybe Monday,” Tim told The Canadian Record Wednesday. “We’ll announce it on the newspaper’s Facebook page.”

Soft, would be an understatement.

But when the time comes, Al’s faithful will know by the cars that line up outside with the first customers, eager to see what a Feb. 12 fire tried its best to destroy, returned to life.

THE NEW REFRIGERATOR WALK-IN

We got a sneak peak on Saturday, and while the store was still in disarray, its undeniable resurgence was in evidence wherever we looked. Gleaming stainless-steel kitchen appliances—from ovens and stoves, to sinks, freezers, and ice machines—have all been installed throughout the popular store and deli. One wall is lined with more shiny new appliances that will soon churn out a variety of fountain drinks, icees, smoothies, and milkshakes.

Less visible, but essential, are the new wiring, the energy-efficient air conditioners, and the soon-to-be-installed security cameras, much like the camera that helped quickly determine the cause of that tragic fire.

The new store will also offer its customers a convenient drive-up window on the north end of the building, and two pristine, handicapped-accessible, public restrooms right up front, so those in need will no longer face a trek through the back storage area to reach them.

GLEAMING NEW STAINLESS STEEL APPLIANCES IN THE KITCHEN

The look is contemporary industrial—with exposed ceilings, suspended steel ductwork, hanging pendant lights, and stainless-steel countertops—but the feel is functional, friendly, and warm. Nary a hint can be detected of the gutted, heat-damaged, smoky hull that remained when that middle-of-the night dryer fire started in the back storage room.

THE NEW PIZZA OVEN

Tim is quick to point out that not all of the store’s traditional services will be offered at first crack. The grocery racks will be delivered later this month, and stocked as supplies arrive. Chairs have been delivered, but at last report, the tables were still en route. New booths will be located along one wall, with charging stations for customer convenience, but their installation was also still pending.

“We’ll have some groceries, but not all of them,” Tim said. “We’ll have our food line, and we’ll have drinks.”

The opening of the new drive-up window will await the Alexanders’ return from a thrice-delayed 30th anniversary trip this month. That’s a bold move to make when opening a new store, but Tim has no qualms, at all. His whole, well-experienced staff is returning—something made entirely possible by the benefit fund set up at Happy State Bank.

That fund was established two days after the fire, and collected donations from hundreds of friends, well-wishers, and loyal customers, who knew that Alexander’s 18 employees may be temporarily without jobs for a time, and unable to support their families.

That generosity had more than a little to do with Tim and Betsy’s decision to turn near-disaster on its head and to re-open their 30-year-old business. It also influenced their decision to use local contractors—all of whom are also loyal customers—to rebuild the store.

And it is that same community spirit that will celebrate Alexander’s reopening—this week, or next—after four long months without those much-mourned chicken strips.

That’s right. You read it here first. We have confirmation that the fryer has arrived, and will be hooked up and ready to go at week’s end.

Pause for praise and thanksgiving. Insert a few hallelujahs here. Life in Canadian, Texas, is about to return to normal.

We can all get by with a little help from our friends.

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