The Howard Deli, a famed northwest D.C. eatery located across the street from the main campus of Howard University for nearly a century, has been forced to shut down due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and its ailing owner.
“It’s an empty feeling inside, really,” Darryl “Pepe” Diaz, who ran the business with his brother, told WUSA-TV (Channel 9). “It’s not a good feeling, for real.”
The Deli, as it was known by the Howard community, opened in 1924 by Mary and Frank Guerra. It was known for its breakfast sandwiches, quickly made hamburgers and cheeseburgers, “ghetto ice tea” and conversations with the owners and employees on a wide range of subjects.
Diaz and his brother Kent “Kenny” Gilmore, who worked at the deli as children, took over the establishment from the Guerra family in 1988 and managed it until Gilmore suffered several strokes last year, WUSA reported.
Gilmore’s continuing health troubles, along with the pandemic’s effect on business amid the absence of students on Howard’s campus, contributed to the decision to close.
“I’m really going to miss the deli and the customers,” Diaz said.
Supporters have started donating to a family-managed fundraiser to help with Gilmore’s medical bills, WUSA reported.