Frankie’s Italian Deli and Grocery shuttered in June, though the family that operated it continues to have a vendor’s space at Napa Chefs' Market on Thursday nights, serving up Italian food.
In recent years, the delicatessen at 1502 Main St. has also been Gina’s Deli, Smoking Cat (a hookah bar) and Café Revolution.
Most recently Frankie’s Deli returned, opened by fourth-generation family members of the original owner.
Many long time Napans remember when the old Frankie’s Deli & Grocery was operated by Frank Rossi, who immigrated from Lake Como, Italy.
He served customers from sometime in the mid to late 1940s until around the early 60s, according to building owner Charles Lopez, who is also a descendant of the Rossi family. Lopez said he remembers it was also operated as Molinari’s Deli for a time.
Around the end of World War II, the property was purchased by Frank Rossi, and he opened Rossi’s Deli & Grocery Store.
Lopez said records show the building dates back to the 1860s.
Going back through the history pages, one of the earliest businesses at 1502 Main St. was a marble works shop. Lopez said the building was also one of the earliest in Napa to have gas lighting.
Lopez said under the stucco exterior is redwood. Each board is 12 inches wide and 75 feet long — the length of the building.
“I’ve been told the if the redwood exterior was restored it would make the building worth four times than it is now,” Lopez said.
He added a person could not buy that kind of redwood any more without cutting down old growth trees — “and that isn’t going to happen.”
The lumber hidden in the interior walls of the building also has a value and quality no longer seen in construction, he said.
The deli space is 1,500 square feet and the rent is $2.50 per square foot, according to a flyer from Strong & Hayden.
Lopez, said he believes operational issues are what's behind the failure of recent tenants to thrive in the deli space at the northeast corner of Main and Napa Streets.
“I don’t think parking is a negative issue. There is plenty of convenient street parking and a small parking area behind the building,” Lopez said.
“It’s a great location for someone who wants to be close to downtown.”
Real estate agent Matt Connolly, of Strong & Hayden, said there have been about three serious inquiries from potential tenants.
Connolly said he expects a deli/restaurant to occupy the location.
“One person is talking about opening a 'New York style' deli," he added.
Currently, two other businesses on the property, and the Executive Room barber shop, seem to be doing okay, according to Lopez. Both opened before the reincarnated Frankie’s Deli.
A tribute to the original owner by the family, Lopez said, Frankie’s Italian Deli was quite successful.
“But the people who ran it had too many other irons in the fire,” Lopez said. “They were doing a good business.”