Latchkey Deli officially opened its doors to the Lawrence community at the beginning of January this year. Three months later, the deli is one of the hottest spots in town due to the hard work and dedication of its owners and hard-working staff.
Located at 1035 Mass. St., the deli has been a longtime dream of the Young’s, who are both Lincoln, Nebraska natives and moved to Lawrence shortly after being married in 2008. Both restaurant industry veterans who have been in the industry since they were kids, the Young’s learned from the mistakes of previous restaurant owners until they felt it was time to open a place of their own.
“The name Latchkey originates from the keys that the kids of working parents were given to let themselves in after school,” Jen Young said, one of the owners of the deli.
“We were left to our own devices for a few hours every day after school,” Jen said. “It’s a term of endearment for kids like us. It represents freedom and autonomy that kids don’t often have.”
Latchkey Deli offers traditional-style sandwiches, along with an array of homemade sides and Italian sodas. Jen and Mike Young prioritized keeping things simple and close to home as everything on the menu is made in-house. The deli also has a full liquor license allowing them to serve beer, wine and spiked Italian sodas.
“This has been our dream, we are not going to let a pandemic stall it for us,” said Mike Young.
Jen referenced the empty storefronts in the area as a driving force behind getting up and going with their plans of opening a restaurant. While they had hoped to open in August, the project was delayed due to contractors having to shut down because of COVID-19.
“We wanted to show that there is a new normal after this plague resides,” Jen said.
Things have been going better than they could have hoped for since they opened at the beginning of the year. Most restaurants tend to operate at a deficit for their first year due to labor, rent, and inventory costs.
“Financially we are looking good,” Mike said. “We have been in the black every month we’ve been open.”
Their success has not only been financial, as customers have seemed to love the place too. Tara Nahey, a mom visiting her son at the University of Kansas, was thrilled with the deli.
“Everything here is authentic and delicious,” Nahey said. “I only wish they had a location back in my hometown.”
While the focus remains to be keeping the business going strong, Mike and Jen are looking to expand in the future.
“We would love to dry cure our own meats to use on sandwiches and sell in local supermarkets,” Mike said.
Chetan Michie, one of the owners, is planning on moving to Oregon soon, giving Jen hopes of a Latchkey Deli location in Oregon as well.