By Lynn Robbins
Though the popular Torp’s Deli no longer bears the same name—or owner—its breakfast sandwiches and the Torpey’s family-recipe rice pudding aren’t going anywhere.
Many of Torp’s employees have stayed at the location on Farnsworth Avenue, now called the Corner Deli, under the new ownership of Mike Petronella. Joining the longtime staff members are also a few new faces, including a new store manager and a business partner, Karen.
Embracing continuity while being open to change seems to be second nature to Petronella, former president of Dow Jones Index and current resident of Millstone Township.
Petronella was friends with the late Bob Lipsett, who owned the store with his niece Lauren from 2002-2006. Back then, the store was named Corner Deli of Bordentown. Lipsett also owned a store in Roebling where Petronella was a partner for two years.
Because of health problems, Lipsett sold the deli, along with another store, Bob’s Corner Deli in Roebling, which he had owned since 1994. When Petronella was given an opportunity to purchase the Roebling store in 2008, he did, and in late 2012 he purchased Torp’s Deli which the Torpey family had successfully run for several years.
Petronella says he likes the deli business because it involves interacting with people and serving good food. He also champions community involvement and wants to support local causes.
“I enjoy the customer contact, and I enjoy marketing,” he said. “We have a very simple goal. We want to offer good food and service at fair prices.”
Petronella says he runs his deli based on principles he learned from Lipsett—the food needs to be fresh and top quality. Items like soups, salads and chili are made daily in the store. Sandwiches are made with Dietz and Watson meats and cheeses and Deluca bread, and the coffee is provided by the Ellis Coffee Company.
In addition to cold cuts, the deli serves burgers, pulled pork, meatballs and chicken wings, several salads and rice pudding. The deli also offers daily specials and about a dozen combination platters, called “combos,” starting at less than $5.
On Valentine’s Day, the deli is treating ladies to a free cup of coffee and a chocolate Hershey’s kiss.
“If you want a real kiss, you’ll have to bring your partner,” Petronella said with a grin.
Petronella has added a few new items, like ketchup potato chips, and some new combo platters. New non-food items include cigarettes and lottery tickets. He is planning some changes for the near future, including a selection of low-salt meats and cheeses, a variety of slush beverages, and other choices that are still being considered.
Other changes include longer summer hours and store improvements such as new floors and exterior painting. The deli is expected to remain open during the renovations, Petronella said. He also has plans to bring the business online with a website and a presence on Facebook and Instagram.
Although the demographics of Bordentown and Roebling are similar, Bordentown has more of a “town quality,” Petronella said. There are some taste differences between the two groups of customers.
“In Roebling, we sell a lot more chicken wings and a lot more Boost beverages,” Petronella said. In a week’s time, Petronella said he sells about 160 gallons of Boost in Roebling, but just about four gallons in Bordentown.
Petronella said he’s learning about the tastes and preferences of Bordentown. So far, comments about what the deli offers have been positive, although one exception stands out: the new coffee cups. The deli now offers coffee in Styrofoam cups as well as paper.
“The Styrofoam coffee cups have caused the most unrest,” Petronella said.
People have complained about cups made from polystyrene because they say it is not recyclable. But Petronella says that Styrofoam can be recycled although most people don’t know that.
“We want to learn from our customers, and we want to be good neighbors. They’ll tell us what they don’t like and what they do like,” Petronella said.
The Corner Deli is located at 353 Farnsworth Ave. Phone: 609-298-6688