One of the most recognizable parts of the Heights was at a low point when Neil Sackheim arrived in the area.
Many of the buildings on 19th Street, between Ashland and Rutland streets, were boarded up when the native New Yorker bought the old Simon Lewis building in the late 1980s. Sackheim turned it into a popular lunch spot and then watched as neighboring businesses blossomed along with it.
Thirty years later, the block features a bustling and eclectic mix of eateries, watering holes, antique shops and clothing stores. And it could be set to undergo another transformation.
Sackheim, whose Carter & Cooley Company Delicatessen is a cherished neighborhood icon, has passed along the property to a driving force behind new development in the Heights. He said he sold the building in late October to a group headlined by Radom Capital LLC, which developed the popular Heights Mercantile and has an even larger mixed-use project in the works at Shepherd Drive and 6th Street.
Sackheim now has a “long-term lease” at the two-story property at 375 W. 19th Street and plans to keep the deli open for the foreseeable future.
“I think that the new owners are going to do some cosmetic and deferred maintenance upgrades as far as the deli goes, but we’re not changing a thing,” Sackheim said. “The main thing is that the new owners are intent on maintaining the charm of the street.”
Steve Radom, managing principal of Radom Capital, did not respond to requests for comment.
Sackheim declined to disclose the terms of the sale, his lease or the identities of the other new owners of the building, which also houses two antique shops on the ground level and an accounting firm, chiropractor, photography studio and film company upstairs. The fate of those businesses is more uncertain.
The owners of Gen’s Antiques and Blueprint Film Co. said they have month-to-month leases and are paying the same rent they paid to Sackheim, but they expect the rate to increase. They’re just not sure when that will happen.
Citing conversations they’ve had with Radom, Greg Nolte of Gen’s and Brian Frye of Blueprint Film both said they were told there would be no immediate changes.
“We all know we’re in a little bit of a limbo situation, depending on what market rate is and at what point they determine they have to do that,” Nolte said. “That’s life. It’s the ever-growing Heights.”
Sackheim said he does not know if Radom Capital has purchased any of the other buildings on the block. Cindy Sheffield, who ate lunch Tuesday at Carter & Cooley and works a few doors to the east at Dramatika Custom Framing, said that building has a Florida-based owner who has vowed to keep ownership within his family.
“But never say never,” Sheffield said.
Sheffield said the influence of mixed-use developers such as Radom Capital and Braun Enterprises is good for the area both commercially and residentially. She also worries that such evolution comes at the expense of some of the “old Heights charm.”
Heights resident Jordan Stovall, who sat on Carter & Cooley’s patio Tuesday afternoon and ate muffalettas along with her family, said she likes the deli because it’s a “mom-and-pop shop” decorated with old photos that remind customers of the building’s history. It opened in the 1920s as Ward’s Drug Store, closed in the mid-1960s and reopened as the deli in 1989.
Sackheim, who said he did not seek out a buyer for the building but capitalized on a “very good opportunity,” also said he intends to keep his business open. But one of the deli’s loyal customers wonders for how long.
Steve Palmer, who does not live or work in the Heights but has been making regular trips to Carter & Cooley for at least 10 years, expects its complexion to change sooner or later.
“Why would somebody buy this place and leave it as is? No. They’re going to try to make money,” Palmer said. “So if they’re going to try to make money, they’re going to renovate the thing and try to get higher rents so they can make more money. Of course. That’s natural.”