Monday, April 21 was a day of regrouping for Chops Deli co-owner Chris Graham and his staff at the new Wrightsville Avenue location.
After opening Wednesday, April 16, lines of curious and hungry diners stretched out the door from Thursday to Saturday.
“I didn’t tell anybody or post it on our Facebook,” Graham said. “We were busy enough as it was and we didn’t even tell anybody we were open.”
He said the anticipation really began once the Chops sign was erected on the side of Wrightsville Avenue. Every day more people would test the outside door to see if the deli was open.
“Everybody that stopped by was so nice,” Graham said. “It was so heartwarming to know that these people were going to be our customers.”
The Chops at 7037 Wrightsville Ave. is the third location for Graham and co-owner Brad Corpening. Graham said their success, which allowed them to open another Chops near Wrightsville Beach, surprised him.
“By no means am I an entrepreneurial restaurateur genius,” he said. “I had an idea four and a half years ago of something I thought was missing from downtown, which was a really good big fat sandwich and some fresh, homemade soup, and it became something way bigger than I thought it would.”
Graham said diners were not the only ones left in the dark about when the new location would open, as neither he nor the staff knew, either.
“I told my staff as we were training that we would be here training every day and then one of these days somebody is going to walk in to ask if we are open and I’m going to say yes,” he said. “I was hoping to be open a few weeks before Easter weekend to get our feet wet. … We got our cans handed to us a little, especially Saturday … it was just crazy.”
Now that diners in the Wrightsville Beach and Wrightsville Sound vicinity can get their fix of Chops’ signature sandwiches, salads and soups, Graham said it would not be long until the new ideas for this location are rolled out — fried chicken tubs, steak sandwiches, breakfast and dinner offerings, as well as a drive thru window. The drive thru window will be the earliest of the new additions, operational within a month.
Along with sandwiches, another similarity in the new Chops location is the work of local artists prominently displayed. With a lack of wall space, the art is displayed in the form of the deli’s tabletops and each tabletop is available for purchase as a wall mounted piece.
Like the opening date of the new location, Graham said new menu and restaurant additions would not be announced.
“One of my disclaimers on the menu is that Chops Deli is evolutionary and likely to mutate periodically … whether it is the food, the hours or if we are serving breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Graham said.