July 20, 2017CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — Chuck Donaldson used a concise yet comprehensive phrase to explain why he and his sister, Claudia Muer, are wrapping up 43 years as owners of Alger’s Deli & Liquor.
“It’s time,” Donaldson said.
They plan to withdraw from the 5,500-square-foot store, 17320 Mack at St. Clair in the City of Grosse Pointe, by early next year, but are retaining a license to sell liquor.
“Not that we wouldn’t like to continue to do this, but maybe on a lot smaller scale,” Donaldson said.
“We tell our employees these (products) are sold everywhere,” said Muer, returning behind the cash register after carrying a bag of groceries to an elderly customer’s car. “The only thing we can sell is customer service.”
Yet, some products are unique.
Managing the deli counter, featuring their mother’s split pea soup and fresh, homemade crab cakes among assorted meats and finger food, is a full-time job itself.
“My mother does things in the deli, but she’s up in age now,” Muer said.
“It’s a lot to run,” Donaldson said. “At this point in our lives, we’d probably make it a lot smaller operation that’s easier to handle.”
They’ve never precisely counted how many products fill the shelves and counters.
Their father, now deceased, bought the business in summer 1974.
“He never worked here,” Donaldson said. “I was 21. I’d miss it. I would want to get back into doing something. We’d like to stay here (in the Grosse Pointes). We’re known here.”
“We’ve been here so long the customers are our friends,” Muer said. “Many are on a first-name basis. We’ve always given pretzels to the little kids.”
Municipal officials propose transforming the corner and a neighboring residential property into public safety headquarters.
“We were thinking about selling anyway and had someone who was interested,” Muer said. “We heard the city was looking for something on Mack. I thought that was a great idea. Mack needs that presence. I think most people think that, too.”
In a special election Tuesday, Aug. 8, voters will approve or deny issuing nearly $13 million in municipal bonds to execute the plan plus move public works facilities from the city hall complex on Maumee to behind Ace Hardware on Mack in Detroit between Radnor and Canyon.
“It’s essentially a 1.7-mil increase for 22 years,” City Manager Peter Dame has explained numerous times. “The estimated cost to a median house with a taxable value of $250,000 would be $212.50 annually.”
“If this is approved Aug. 8, we would be closing at the end of January,” Donaldson said. “The community needs a police presence on Mack.”
Until then, it’s 50-hour work weeks and a focus on customer service.
“It’s all I’ve ever done,” Donaldson said.
“One of the things we love about Grosse Pointers is they’re very loyal (and) supporting of small business,” Muer said. “That’s how we could be here for so many years.”