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Months after fire, Med Deli continues operations, prepares to rebuild main location

Jamil Kadoura, owner of Med Deli, stands in front of his restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Saturday, Oct. 07, 2023. Months after a fire destroyed the back of Med Deli, Kadoura stays optimistic about restoring the restaurant.

On July 22, a fire broke out at Mediterranean Deli on West Franklin Street while a contractor was doing roofing work.

A little over two months later, the owner, Jamil Kadoura, and his staff are navigating a new normal for the restaurant as its building remains closed.

Kadoura said that while the restaurant is not currently open for walk-ins, Med Deli started catering and delivery soon after the fire from 454 W. Franklin St. —  which used to be Elaine’s Restaurant.

Because of the location change, Kadoura said the restaurant condenses its over 100-item menu to about 20 main dishes for delivery orders. He said the catering menu has stayed relatively the same because they are able to order the food they need in advance.

Though they've managed to make it work through a temporary location, construction will soon be underway at the main location at 410 W. Franklin St.

Jim Spencer, the principal architect at Jim Spencer Architects, said his company is currently working on demolition pricing and permits to begin construction.

He said the floors, stairs and other parts of the building suffered fire and water damage and that tearing out the damage would be the first step of rebuilding. He also said they will need to get a permit from the Town of Chapel Hill to reinstall the roof and flooring.

After the roof and flooring are reinstalled, he said the last step is getting another permit from the Town for the restaurant to put in the new kitchen equipment as well as electrical, mechanical and plumbing services. 

Spencer said the construction should take about six months to complete, but they won’t know for certain until a contractor can give them a timeline.

“That is the million-dollar question,” he said. 

Kadoura said he is eager to see the new kitchen when the restaurant reopens.

Because Kadoura originally built his restaurant by expanding into office spaces, he said he never quite had the right kitchen for Med Deli. With the renovations, he said he can finally get the right equipment.

“We can do the kitchen we want, so that, to me, is a little exciting,” Kadoura said. 

Amid the destruction of the restaurant, the community has supported Med Deli for the past two months.

A GoFundMe for restaurant staff raised over $200,000. More than 3,100 people donated to the fund over 17 days. The fundraiser closed on Aug. 8, but Kadoura said they're still using the money. 

He said all of the donations were placed in a fund called Mediterranean Deli’s Employees Special Fund operated by the Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

“People send us money in our name, which we refuse to take," he said. "I always told them if they want to send it, send it to the chamber of commerce."

Because of the fundraising efforts, Kadoura said he was able to retain all of his employees who wanted to stay after the fire.

Edgar Ordonez, the catering manager at Med Deli, said he is grateful to have a boss like Kadoura who cares deeply for his employees and fosters a family environment.

“We are the luckiest employees because we have a boss like Jamil Kadoura,” Ordonez said.

He said the community helps in ways beyond direct fundraising, like placing frequent orders.

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“They've been supporting us with all these donations to keep the employees, and now, I see people trying to place more orders so they can help us,” Ordonez said.

@DTHCityState |

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