It's a story of the triumph endurance of the little guy: In 2008, Larry Hamlin, owner of a chain of delis that included Mel's Market on Third Ave. and Madison, and Joelle's on Fourth (same office building, different sides), decided to get out of the business. Organic to Go, which was rapidly expanding, bought Hamlin out and sucked his locations into the Borg (I had a look at OtG's sandwiches from the Fourth Ave. store in September 2008).
Well, the Borg swallowed more than it could chew -- and had to purge. It recently closed five Seattle stores, including its newest acquisitions. The website now advertises OtG as a corporate caterer, with no mention of retail storefronts, though three are left. Not only that, the corporation offered Mel's and Joelle's back to Hamlin, who bought them back. Now he's reopening them just as they were.
After 20 years of owning Mel's and one year off doing independent restaurant consulting, says Hamlin's son, Simon, the elder Hamlin wanted to get back into the workplace. He'd kept in touch with most of his old employees, and offered them their old jobs. "The original GM from Mel's returned," Simon says, "and he's got 12 of the original 17 people coming back."
Joelle's opened back up on August 8, while Mel's Market is scheduled to reopen Tuesday, September 8. Simon says Mel's will have the same mix of prepackaged lunch items and the sandwich-making station, with most of the same menu items, made by most of the same people, and probably for most of the same customers. The only change is that it won't be delivering any more. You can always place delivery orders here, for twice the price.