If you haven't been to Cheese 'n Stuff, the humble deli and food shop on Camelback and Central, there's a good chance your parents or your grandparents have -- the joint's been a Valley staple since 1949.
"My Dad knew the original owners and told them he'd buy it when they were ready to sell," said Stan Zawatski, owner of Cheese 'n Stuff. "But they thought he was just some New York guy that was full of shit."
Zawatski's father eventually did end up buying Cheese 'n Stuff in 1972, moving his family from New York City where he owned several deli establishments. Stan started working with his dad when he was thirteen, eventually taking over the business when his dad passed away in 2008.
Now, Zawatski's poised to sell Cheese 'n Stuff's one millionth sandwich this week. What kind of sandwich does he think it will be, what can the one millionth customer expect, and how has the little-deli-that-could managed to stick around for so many years? Read on.
Zawatski knew in January he was going to hit his one millionth sandwich in June. So what kind of sandwich of the many offered at Cheese 'n Stuff does he think it will be?
"I think it will be The Doughboy. It's a pretty popular sandwich."
On my first bite of one, I could see why. Reminiscent of a the kind of sandwich served up by a beloved relative to make everything better after a bad day, The Doughboy features deli turkey, bacon, creamy avocado, and mayo on warm, super-soft sourdough bread. There's even a couple of crunchy pickles on the side. Just eating it at the deli's vinyl tableclothed-topped table in the midst of chattering businessmen, post-soccer practice teens, and couples in love made me feel like I was part of the neighborhood.
Zawatski's still figuring out the millionth customer fanfare.
"Most likely a free lunch on us. Maybe a T-shirt, too. I'm even thinking about getting a sheet cake for that day."
Despite being in business for almost forty years and being one of the few fortunate eating establishments not bitten by the recession, Zawatski is taking his one millionth sandwich in stride.
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"We've got great customers, people who've been coming here for years. My dad used to say that customers are the purpose of a business, not an interruption to it. I try and live by those words, too."
Zawatski then adds, "I won't live to see our two millionth sandwich, so this one is pretty special to me."
Cheese 'n Stuff Deli 5042 North Central Avenue 602-266-3636