In March of 2020, Donald Rosner opened the Blue Line Deli in Huntington, NY. It was a dream come true for Rosner, but the timing of his opening couldn’t have been worse. It was at this same time that COVID-19 closures began to take shape and wreak havoc on the food service industry. Despite the difficult circumstances surrounding his opening, as of April 2022 his deli has multiple locations and has collaborated with members of the NBA and NHL.
The story of Blue Line Deli begins with the closing of another deli in that exact same building space. “My mom called me up and said the deli went out of business in Huntington,” Rosner said. “I was here as a kid every day and I went to school right down the street.” His familiarity with the area and his love of the New York Islanders inspired him to open the hockey themed deli. The deli’s logo is a bright blue and orange with an Islanders flag waving in front. On the inside, the walls are adorned with stickers of various NHL team logos and hockey themed menu items.
While struggling to establish an early customer base, Rosner went out of pocket to send food to frontline workers dealing with the pandemic. “All the money I had as working capital went towards donating food to charity,” said Rosner. He didn’t regret the decision, but, along with pandemic related complications, it nearly forced his deli into early closure.
However, at this time, word of Rosner’s good deeds and Islanders themed deli starting spreading within the Islanders fan community. “Islander fans started following me on Twitter and followed the things I was saying, and because of all the work we did, they bombarded us with support,” Rosner said.
Gabe Tacuri is one of the deli’s customers who caught wind of its existence over Twitter. “I follow a ton of Islanders fans on Twitter, and they were praising the deli for their food and atmosphere,” Tacuri said. Rosner’s following grew even stronger when he hosted a promotion where he gave out free blue and orange dyed bagels coordinating with Islanders playoff wins in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Islanders Take Notice
By this point, the deli’s newfound popularity not only saved him from dire straits, but caught the attention of Islanders co-owner John Ledecky. “I have had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Ledecky over the last year and a half, and his dedication for the team and the fan base is inspiring,” Rosner said. “He has been to my store a few times and we even made a sandwich in his honor.”
Rosner’s familiarity with team ownership got him ambitious for a massive expansion opportunity; a spot within the team’s new home at UBS Arena. The new arena at Belmont Park was built specifically to host the New York Islanders and opened in November 2021 to host their home games during the 2021-22 season. “I actually reached out to them very early on, before the building even started being built, and we had great contact all throughout,” Rosner said. With that, it was announced that Blue Line Deli would indeed be a concession option inside of UBS Arena. It was a move that satisfied local customers like Catherine Josefak, who was happy to see the beloved deli included. “Most arenas and stadiums don’t have food like that,” said Josefak. “I love that they have the blue and orange bagels because it really is festive for the games.”
Collaborating With a Sports Icon
The expansion into UBS Arena opened up the door to another project, this time working with an NBA legend. UBS Arena announced a partnership with Big Chicken, a fried chicken brand notably owned by Shaquille O’Neal. As part of its entrance into the arena, the brand sought to collaborate with Rosner. “I was contacted by Big Chicken a few months before the arena opened; they wanted some New York flavor on their menu, ” Rosner said. Together, they came up with a sandwich aptly named “The Islander”, featuring Big Chicken’s buffalo chicken patty between Rosner’s famous blue and orange bagel. It was an idea that Rosner was proud to say he had a lot of influence in creating.
This local business, once in danger of closing within months of its opening, now has worked with members of two pro sports leagues. It’s quite the unexpected success story, a story that Rosner believes was a result from his early charity work. “People embraced what we did here, and when I wanted to extend help to front line workers, the community got behind what we were doing and made it all possible,” Rosner said.
In an increasingly negative world, Rosner’s core goal is to try and bring some happiness to the local community. “My view is, if you can make a few people smile a day, maybe they will make others smile and it can be a domino effect of happy people!” Rosner said. He hopes to be able to continue to expand the deli across Long Island and bring some positivity into people’s lives well into the future.
Featured image courtesy of Courtesy of Twitter/@Bluelinedeli719
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