Marco’s Deli, which sits on the corner of Williams Street and Hamlin Court, has stood since the early 1950s. It has weathered three different owners, and it has been witness to the changing atmosphere at the University over the years.
Marco’s owner, who opens the deli every morning at 6 a.m. and doesn’t leave until nightfall, isn’t exactly named Marco.
“My name’s actually Mark,” said owner Mark Sbona. “I decided that Marco actually sounded a little bit better for the business, so I went with that.”
Sbona didn’t always own the deli. In the early 1950s, two brothers opened the deli, presumably under a different name, but retired in 1985. At this point it was taken over by two women until the summer of 1994. The deli was closed and the building was left empty—that is until Sbona stepped in. Having grown up in Middletown, Sbona was familiar with the deli as a child.
“I spent a lot of time in the store when I was a kid, so it’s kind of fun now to be running [it],” Sbona said. “My grandmother lived over on College Street, so when I was a kid my parents would drop us off and we would come to the store.”
Now that Sbona owns the deli, his family continues to play a role in its success. Until his father’s passing six years ago, Sbona’s father ran the store alongside him. Now, Sbona still describes the deli as a family business, with help from his uncle and brother.
Back when Sbona was growing up, he described the deli as quite different a place than it is now.
“It was a real Italian market when I was a kid because there were no super markets or anything around, and all of the surrounding houses were two-family,” Sbona said. “There was a big Good Year factory around the street, and the neighborhood was filled with Polish and Irish people. Everyone would come in here. The deli sold all of the meats you could think of.”
As Sbona watched the deli change over the years, he noted changes in the University as well.
“I spent a lot of time running around Wesleyan, and it was a little different back then,” Sbona said. “I mean, I was a kid, but the people were different. It was hippieville back then. You’re talking the late sixties, a lot of stuff going on back then, big time stuff—a lot of race trouble. It was a weird time to grow up, but you know, kids are kids.”
Sbona’s store sells a variety of products that range from instant oatmeal to alcohol.ÜBut Marco’s Deli can’t rely on selling to students alone. Sbona said that because the students are gone for so much of the year, the local clientele have been crucial to business. It’s thanks to these locals that even with the economic crisis, business at Marco’s Deli has been booming. But Sbona knows how quickly things can change.
“It seems like the worse the economy gets, the better business is,” Sbona said. “I feel very fortunate because you hear of so many stories about business being bad for people. You know, things can turn so fast.”
The location of Marco’s Deli makes it a prime spot for residents of High and Low Rise, as well as Fraternity Row, providing students with a place for food and supplies which is only seconds away. Students like Lizzie Greenwald ’12 on their way to Broad Street often take advantage of Marco’s.
“I feel particularly lucky to have it as a resource,” Greenwald said. “It’s great to walk by Marco’s on the way to Broad Street books and know that it’ll always be there if I need something.”