It’s a sad day for lovers of Eastern Market and a quirky deli that’s beloved by many.

Mark Kurlyandchik over at the Freep is reporting that Russell Street Deli in Eastern Market is closing September 28. The reason? A landlord/tenant dispute. I strongly suggest you give it a read.

There’s an impasse between Russell Street co-owner Ben Hall and landlord Sanford Nelson. Nelson bought the building that also houses the popular Supino Pizzeria and some other properties in the neighborhood for $21.6 million.

“Basically, we had an early conversation with the landlord in January and he said, ‘I know you’ve probably heard a lot of stuff but I plan to honor your lease and take care of all the deferred maintenance,'” said Hall, who has co-owned the restaurant since 2007 after starting there as a dishwasher in 1996. “Under that guise, I said, ‘Hey, our floor is really soft because it’s 128 years old.’ Then he proceeded to say, ‘You’ve destroyed the floor and you owe me $50,000.’”

Detroit Free Press

For their part, in a statement that’s in multiple outlets the company that owns the building, Firm Real Estate, said that they “never wanted them to close and, from the very beginning, have sought to resolve the matter in good faith. At every turn, they have refused to work with us to come to mutually beneficial agreement to address this important safety concern.”

Two Cents: Whoever you believe — the bottom line is that Russell Street has been around for three decades and is one of the special gems of Detroit. And it will either be gone or in a best case scenario away from its Eastern Market location.

I keep hearing how “Eastern Market is going to keep its character” but I’ll be honest. The scorecard doesn’t look good so far.

This news is right on the heels of the closure of Mootown Ice Cream, Farmer’s Restaurant and others in Eastern Market.

Countless friendships have been sparked and kept over the communal tables at Russell Street. They embraced clean, healthy dishes long before any of the current restaurant scene did. They hired local and 75% of their staff is African American, a rarity in greater downtown Detroit.

They’re an example of a business that stayed when others left.

And yes, I’m using Russell Street Deli as a prime example because everyone knows it — but as a long time resident, this applies to most communities across the city that won’t get the digital ink this place does — it begs the question.

If Detroit “comes back” but loses the people and establishments that make this place special — are we really turning things around or just replacing it and slapping the Detroit name on for branding?

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