the history of dilly café
A Brief History of the Dilly Deli... er, Café...
The Dilly Deli was founded in the summer of 1982 in The Old Town Center of the historic Village of Mariemont, near the Community Church and across the street from the original firehouse. Mariemont was long on the Register of National Historic Places as the first planned community in the United States, and in 2007 was elevated to National Historic Landmark status in recognition of that fact. (That puts Mariemont at the same level as the Washington Monument or the Grand Canyon!) We do not know the original owner's name, or how he coined the name "Dilly Deli". Perhaps it was a nod to London's Piccadilly Circle, maybe an allusion to dill pickles — we don't know!
Just six months later the Deli was sold to Hans Nolte, who had recently retired from a successful machining business. Hans was the first to bring in wine, beer and gourmet foods along with the carry-out sandwiches — a combination that has continued to this day!
In 1985 Hans Nolte retired (again!) and the Deli was bought by Bob and Jinny Richard, parents of Robbie and soon to be in-laws of Chuck. Having worked in restaurants and catering for the previous few years, Chuck was recruited to help out at the new venture. Chuck and his mother-in-law Jinny slowly expanded the wine, beer and gourmet food selection, and soon added catering to the mix as well.
In 1989 another ownership change — Chuck and Robbie bought the business from her parents and continued the course of slow and steady growth. Just three years later Robbie joined the Deli full time, having spent a decade in sales and marketing management positions. Business continued to grow and by the mid 90's we were desperate for space and were looking for options!
The building we are now in was originally the Mariemont Kroger, and when they built their new store down the road an opportunity presented itself. The Spinnenweber family, operators of the Mariemont Inn, purchased the building and began extensive renovation and remodeling. They saw the Deli as a key component of the new Mariemont Strand, and we were involved in the design from the beginning. We needed a patio, and got one. We wanted an outdoor fireplace, and got that! We moved into our new location and opened in August of 1996 with almost four times the space of our old location. Yikes!
We continued to grow and in the next few years we added an on-premise wine and beer license; made the move to table service first at dinner, then lunch; started our tradition of live music every weekend; and even added cocktail service! Eventually the dining room business reached a point of filling the kitchen, as it were, and we ceased off-premise catering operations to pay attention to the customers coming through the front door. The 'deli' part of our business slowly faded away, as we became more of a 'real' restaurant and bar. We launched a second location of our retail wine and beer business at the Ridge Market in Pleasant Ridge and had a lukewarm two year run before the entire Market faded away, but followed that by expanding the Mariemont wine shop into new space fronting busy Wooster Pike. In the past five years our hard work has been recognized with accolades from both local and national magazines and websites, including CityBeat, Cincinnati Magazine, The Wine Spectator, RateBeer.com, BeerAdvocate.com, and others!
As we enter our 26th year of stewardship of the Dilly we continue to morph and grow. Having left behind the 'deli' part of our business long ago, we are slowly becoming the Dilly Café. The restaurant and bar business is slowly taking over the gourmet food aisle. Ironically, Robbie is spending less time at the Dilly and more time nurturing a growing gourmet and specialty food sales and brokerage business! Chuck continues to manage the wine shop. Under new General Manager Christopher Hutchison and Executive Chef Eric Vice, the most stable and longest-tenured staff we have ever enjoyed keep taking us to places we never thought we'd see. We're looking forward to what's next!