While Produce Plus Market and Deli may appear to be an unassuming, no-frills store, its owner, Bob Reft, has his finger on the pulse of the community.
When Bob, of Avalon, bought the deli 21 years ago, previous owners were selling premium deli meats and cheeses that were overpriced for the neighborhood. He brought in brands that better suited the wallets of Bellevue. Isaly’s chipped ham? $3.49 a pound. Homemade chicken salad? $3.99 a pound. His markup is minimal; volume sales is his strategy. Vendor connections he made while Produce Manager at Giant Eagle and Kuhns have come in handy along the way.
Each morning, Bob is out the door by 6:15am to pick up bread and buns from Bread
Works and meats from the Strip. He’s at the store by 8 am to prepare for the day. Before Covid, the store was open every day of the week. For now, he is closed on Sundays. Until this year, he took just 7 days off each year: the holidays.
Affordable, homemade salads and soups are prepared daily. It’s those and the bargain-priced home-style meals that keep customers coming back. “We get a lot of repeat customers,” he said. Foot-long hoagies are priced at $3.99 ($2.99 on Saturdays) and the $3.49 prepared meals can feed two. Last week’s Pierogi Lasagna was a big hit, as was today’s Pasta and Meatballs. The cooler is often empty by end of day. If anything is left, it’s donated.
Hoagie fundraisers are a big part of the business. In a typical year, Bob and his employees make between 60,000 and 65,000 hoagies for schools, churches, apartment buildings, and organizations. This year, due to the pandemic, they made 25,000.
What the store doesn’t have in aesthetics, it makes up for in its hometown feel. Much like Norm at Cheers, customers are called by name and treated as friends. “How’s your daughter?” he asked a customer as he filled a container with cottage cheese. “I know everybody,” he admitted. If you want a buy a lottery ticket or sports memorabilia, Stan’s Variety in the front of the store will take care of that too.
Produce Plus Market and Deli is located at 471 Lincoln Ave in Bellevue. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm and closed on Sundays. Phone is 412 734 3845.