After almost 30 years of owning The Deli Francesco, Sherrye and Rudy Ceragioli are passing the torch to new owners who promise to keep everything the same, right down to the potato salad.
Jason Taylor, 37, and his wife Michelle, 36, of Minden, took over the restaurant on Sept. 1. The Ceragiolis have been helping the Taylors with the transition, even teaching them the names of their regulars.
"We're hanging around here, introducing all of our customers to the new folks," Sherrye Ceragioli said. "It's been great, and I think the young folks are going to do a great job keeping up the tradition."
The Ceragiolis purchased the restaurant in 1979, becoming the third owners of The Deli Francesco, which first opened in 1977, Ceragioli said.
The previous owners also were retiring.
"At the time, Carson City was a small family town," Ceragioli said. "It was a first-name basis."
Her favorite part of owning the restaurant was getting to know the customers and sending them home with happy bellies.
"I must love cooking, because I wouldn't have done it all these years if I didn't love it," Ceragioli said. "The people are just fabulous. It's not just making their lunch, you share a part of their lives."
Through the years, they've watched three generations of customers come through their doors.
"A mother who comes in here has a daughter who is graduating college," Ceragioli said. "I remember when she and her husband were courting in here. Then they got married, and she was pregnant.
"I don't feel any older," she added, laughing.
Retirement will give the Carson City couple more time to spend with their five sons, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. There's a family reunion coming up, and they hope to take a trip or two. But retirement may take some getting used to.
"On Labor Day, when I woke up, I thought, 'I've got to finish payroll today,'" Ceragioli said. "My husband said, 'No, you don't have to do payroll today.'
"Your mind is so trained," she added. "You've got to change. It's bittersweet."
The restaurant's family atmosphere will carry forth with the Taylors and their three young children, who are usually at the deli after school, having a snack and finishing their homework.
Jason Taylor, a former financial controller, and his wife, a stay-at-home mom, began looking for a new business earlier this year. In June, their broker introduced them to the Ceragiolis. The couples talked for three hours.
"Rudy and Sherrye, they were just one of those few individuals that you meet that just leaves a lasting impression," Taylor said. "So that was the deciding factor, buying something they had established and built over the last (30) years and become a literal icon to the community."
The menu will stay the same, featuring burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and breakfasts.
The Taylors turned on the soft-serve ice cream machine and will add malts, shakes and floats.
Taylor said the deli's biggest seller is the hot pastrami special - pastrami, swiss cheese, avocado, sprouts, and tomato on bread.
"Everything here on the menu sells real well, so we don't plan on changing anything," Taylor said.
The restaurant offers take-out or dine-in options, with 20 tables that seat up to 60 customers. The deli also offers catering and delivery.
Kevin Ray, onsite property manager for the Carson Mall, said customers are happy for the Ceragiolis and their retirement, but are sad to see them go.
"It's become such a family in there," Ray said.
Ray's favorite lunch at the deli is the egg salad sandwich, since he's a vegetarian.
"Everyone tends to have their specific favorite there," he said. "We've opened a few new food spots at the mall, but the deli tends to be the old-time favorite for a lot of people."
And even though the Ceragiolis are not behind the counter anymore, you just may see them at a table, sharing a Reuben sandwich.
"Hey, I know of a good place to eat," Ceragioli said, laughing. "Trust me."
The Deli Francesco will offer free soft-serve ice cream Saturday as part of the Carson Mall's Patriot Day celebration.