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MailTribune.com
  • MacLevin's Calls it Quits

    The owners of Jacksonville's 'unconventional Jewish deli' blame their decision to close on rising expenses and a stagnant economy
  • JACKSONVILLE — Increased costs combined with years of a down economy has led the owners of MacLevin's Whole Food Deli to announce they will go out of business Sunday.
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  • JACKSONVILLE — Increased costs combined with years of a down economy has led the owners of MacLevin's Whole Food Deli to announce they will go out of business Sunday.
    "We just can't pay for what is required," said owner Jeff Levin. He cited rising expenses for food, payroll and rent along with the overall economic stagnation of the past eight years as factors.
    Levin describes the business as an unconventional Jewish deli. Emphasis at the breakfast and lunch spot was on home-made food using organic, local products where possible. He and his wife, Penelope, opened the business in November 1998. The Mac prefix on the restaurant name honors his grandmother, who was born in Scotland.
    Customers sat they will miss the neighborly atmosphere of the restaurant at 150 W. California St.
    "I regret them closing. It's been my little home away from home. I've been going down there different times of the day," said Gary Collin of Jacksonville. A regular since he moved to town five and one-half years ago, Collins said he usually visited three times per week.
    MacLevin's was more than just a restaurant; it was family, said Erin Borland of Medford, who ate there regularly.
    "We go to work and open the doors and wait for friends," said Levin. He said he and his wife usually put in 10 hours a day, seven days a week at the operation.
    The restaurant bakes its own breads, brines its corned beef and smokes its pastrami. Levin contracted with local farmers for raw foods.
    "The food is ethically prepared. It's first class ingredients. They don't over-salt," Collins said. "They really think about what they are doing."
    "The support service is phenomenal. The quality of the food was just unbelievable," said Borland. "It really saddened me to find out they are closing ... . They would bend over backwards for anybody."
    Debt on the restaurant is less than $6,000, said Levin, but with the lack of business, he didn't see a way to keep the restaurant operating. Restaurant equipment will be sold to satisfy the debt. In 2005 the business had its top grossing year of $151,000 but never reached that level again.
    A hospitalization in May that required hiring extra help also took its toll along with other factors such as the slowdown on the first December weekend because of ice and snow. Despite that, he said the total gross for the year was up $7,000 over last year.
    Levin plans to kick back a little and says his wife is relieved to get away from the stress and anxiety.
    Levin isn't getting out of the food business entirely. He just signed an agreement for kitchen use in Ashland where he will continue to make Sisterfields jams and vinegars, a 20-year-old business he purchased a year ago. He also makes sauerkraut under the MacLevin's label. The products are available in local stores. Levin also is looking at options for other food ventures in the Rogue Valley.
    After hosting a private gathering for supporters Christmas night, the restaurant reopened Thursday following a two-day break.
    "It's been an incredible lesson and experience," said Levin. "The customers are an incredible group. There's been lots of regulars for years."
    Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.
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