As a college student at Chicago’s Northwestern University, Bill Fromm planned to one day open two very different businesses — an advertising agency and a Jewish deli.
The day after his 1964 graduation, he returned to Kansas City and started the advertising agency that eventually became Barkley, an award-winning Crossroads agency that counts Dairy Queen and Spirit Airlines among its clients and that created the popular “Sonic Drive-in guys.” It is now one of the largest employee-owned agencies in the country.
But it took nearly 55 years for the Jewish deli.
Now Fromm and about a dozen partners plan to open Broadway Deli, at 2101 Broadway, in late April or early May.
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He said his friend Ed Nelson of KC Hopps knew of his deli dream and showed him the former Pezzettino Italian Deli & Market space in the Crossroads. But while KC Hopps, owners and operators of several area restaurants, became an investor and could do much of the operations such as accounting and human resources, the partners said a deli is not the same as running a restaurant.
“He doesn’t know a matzo ball from a golf ball,” Fromm said with a chuckle.
So when Fromm returned to Chicago in November to scout universities with his daughter, he stopped by his longtime favorite Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen on the city’s south side, and asked to see the owners. They said they would be happy to add Fromm to their wholesale accounts.
But he wanted more, he wanted them to become partners. He even sent them plane tickets to come check out the Kansas City site. They were sold on the neighborhood — urban like their Chicago location — and the space was nearly move-in ready.
“We wanted to be sure it would be done the right, to control the food in the right way,” said Dan Raskin, who became a major investor in Broadway Deli with his family. “We are hands-on, the same family for four generations, and we have a long history and knowledge and experience in the industry.”
Manny’s was founded in 1942, the same year Fromm was born, and has remained in the Raskin family since. They decided to use a different name for the Kansas City location since they are taking on partners.
While the Chicago location is cafeteria-style, the Kansas City location will be fast-casual. And there’s already a Manny’s in the Crossroads — Manny’s Mexican restaurant just a couple of blocks away.
Breakfast items will include bagels and cream cheese, French toast, salami and eggs, pancakes, and lox eggs onions. Sandwiches will include corned beef, pastrami, turkey, salami, egg salad, chopped liver and grilled cheese. It also will have hot dogs, Matzo ball soup, a daily soup, salads, black and white cookies, Danish rolls, Chicago’s Eli’s cheesecake, ice cream and shakes, coffee, Dr. Brown’s soda, and sides such as potato knish and potato pancakes.
Sandwiches will be in two sizes, the towering “Broadway” size or a regular size.
“All our meats and recipes will come from Manny’s. Meat will be flown in daily from Chicago first class,” said Fromm, who will serve as managing partner.
And Broadway Deli will have a bit of an attitude, Fromm said. A sign at the entrance will say “We serve breakfast and lunch. If you eat breakfast or lunch here you won’t need dinner.” A suggestion box for complaints will be mounted on the ceiling.
A wall on the back will have one section for “Famous people who have not eaten here yet” and will have photos of famous people — Obama, Trump, Brad Pitt and more — just like New York delis have of their famous people who are customers. The next section will say “Famous people who have eaten here” and will be blank. The third section will be for “People who aren’t famous but eat here a lot,” and that will have photos of Broadway Deli regulars. And a tagline under the Broadway Deli logo will say “Thought about since 1964.”
Fromm expects about 50 percent of sales to be in delivery and catering.
While Pezzettino opened in April 2014 and closed after less than three years of operations, Fromm isn’t concerned.
“Out goal is not to just have good food, it is to have great food,” Fromm said. “If we are good we won’t make it. If it is great we will.”