The Coastal Star

Along the Coast: New owners, same old-school style at Seaside Deli

Richie Podvesker, deli master of the store, directs a customer to the beer collection while handling the sandwich orders of a dozen customers at a time. He has been making subs and other meals for more than 21 years.

By Paula Detwiller

    The roadside deli you know and love has changed hands.
    But don’t worry. The pair of hands you care most about — the ones that make your favorite submarine sandwich — aren’t going anywhere. And according to the new owner, not much else will change, either.
    You’ll still be able to pick up a No. 19 (turkey, avocado, swiss, honey mustard, lettuce and tomato on a kaiser roll), a six-pack of Red Stripe, some shoestrings, motor oil and a cake mix. You’ll still hear Frank Sinatra tunes while picking out your purchases. And all those autographed celebrity photos will remain on the wood-paneled walls.
    The Seaside Deli and Market, located on A1A a half-mile south of Woolbright Road, is the barrier island’s upscale, old school convenience store. It’s also the only “food-to-go” place along A1A from Manalapan down to Delray Beach.
So when the owner (who asked that we not name him in this story), quietly sold the business early last month, some may have wondered about its fate.
    “I don’t know what the neighborhood would do without this place,” says Gulf Stream resident and deli regular Gene Jankowski, who was dropping in to order his usual tuna salad and cole slaw. “Richie’s the best.”
    That would be Richie Podvesker, 41, son of the owner and the face of the deli counter for the past 21 years. He too shies away from talking about himself, except to blurt out a very telling individual statistic.
    “I can knock out a sandwich every 42 seconds,” he says.
    And that’s a good thing, because long lines can form at the deli counter around lunchtime, particularly on sunny days.
    “I drove up here from Pompano today just to see Richie,” says former Ocean Ridge resident Michael Homer, getting in line. “He’s been my buddy for the longest time, and he makes a great sandwich.”
    Homer orders a No. 11, chicken salad with bacon.
    In addition to “Richie’s Special Sandwiches,” all 38 of them, the Seaside sells more than 200 different beers; old-fashioned soda in glass bottles (Squirt, birch beer, cream soda); and homemade take-out dinners: baked ziti, barbecue pork, Italian meatballs, soups and quiche.
    There’s an entire aisle of candy, and if you run out of toilet paper, cat food, hairspray, or champagne, they’ve got that too.
    Richie’s brother Hughie worked here for a time, from 1993 to 2001, which explains the double billing on the sign. He ended up going back to the family’s native New Jersey.
“It wasn’t his thing,” Richie’s dad says.

Kevin Belliard, son of new owner Rafael Belliard, is already working on the books.

A new family takes over
    The Seaside’s new owners are 28-year-old Kevin Belliard, who manages the store, and his parents, Rafael and Leonora. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Rafael Belliard played major league baseball in the 1980s and ’90s, first for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and later for the Atlanta Braves. He’s now an assistant adviser to the general manager of the Kansas City Royals.
    Kevin graduated from American Heritage School in Delray Beach and went on to play four years of college baseball (one year at Southern University in Baton Rouge, the rest at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach). After graduation, he coached baseball at Alabama A&M University before joining the business world, managing an AT&T retail store, and then a Boca Raton Taco Bell for the past two years.
    He and his fiancée, Gladys Rodriguez, live in Boca Raton and have a 2-year-old son named Kevin Alexander Jr.
    “We’d been looking around for a business to buy,” says Kevin. “From day one, when we saw this store, we fell in love with it. I like how everything feels like you’re maybe in a 1960s or ’70s movie and it hasn’t changed much. It goes with the surf shop next door.”
    What does he like best?
    “The customers. Everyone who comes in feels like family. The regulars all know my name already. It reminds me of the bodegas in the Dominican Republic. Everyone knows the employees, and you go there because it’s convenient and close to home,” he says.
    Kevin says he’s not making any personnel changes.
    “It’ll be Richie’s Seaside Deli and Market as long as he wants to stay here. I kid you not, he makes the best subs I ever tried.”
    Kevin talks about the uniqueness of the market, with so many items all in one place, and a history of attracting celebrities. Richie’s dad confirms some of the big names: Jimmy Buffett. Mariah Carey. David Caruso. And athletes like one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott, hockey legend Mario Lemieux, NBA star Jim Jackson.
    “The deli’s been here a long time and been very successful,” Kevin says. “We’re keeping everything the same.”
    He pauses. “I am looking to move to the island, though. I would gladly give up a grass backyard in Boca to be near the sand of the beach.”

Richie’s dad with Hughie and Richie at the counter of the Seaside Deli in 1993. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

Prepackaged meals fill one of the many coolers.

The gator head at the cash register has been lending pennies to customers for decades.

The walls of the store are covered with autographed photos and a collection of Polaroids featuring smiling customers.

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