WASHINGTON — The Bethesda Community Store & Deli, a tiny place that opened in 1924, has closed.
Arnie Fainman has owned the restaurant along Old Georgetown Road, right across from the National Institutes of Health, for 15 years.
“When I was a kid I came here. You would get two slices of bread, one piece of bologna, one lettuce leaf, and that was it.”
Fainman’s background is in the deli business, and when he bought the store, he began to offer higher-end sandwiches.
He says security gates added at NIH after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks really hurt his bottom line.
“It was too tough for the employees to get out, back and forth, during lunch. It was tough for people to get in there. Truck drivers, people making deliveries who were customers here.”
Fainman says he saved his business by adding a barbecue wagon in the parking lot. He also sold Christmas trees from the lot, but recently things have been tough.
“The last year hasn’t been very good at all for whatever reason … and I’m tired. So I didn’t renew my lease.”
The lease is up at the end of this month.
Fainman closed the barbecue wagon for good on Sunday, and the store’s last customers were served on Monday.
“We were just here cleaning up, and we were just selling out what we had. And we had a good day,” he said with a laugh.
The entire lot has been designated historic by Montgomery County, and Fainman says the store was a longtime favorite.
“I’ve had so many people come and tell me that they’re so sad that I’m closing. My daughter was over there talking to a lady in a car yesterday and the lady started crying. ‘Where am I going to go?'”
Fainman may be leaving, but the store will live on. He says the property owners plan to rehab the building and make an addition.
And Fainman is involved in a new restaurant venture. He is one of the owners of the new Quincy’s Bar and Grille scheduled to open in the next few weeks in Bethesda.
It will go into a space that used to house a Hard Times Cafe on Del Ray Avenue.
“It’s not going to be like your typical sports bar. It’s going to be a little bit higher end, and it’s a beautiful bar,” Fainman said.
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