Esposto’s Delicatessen in San Mateo has permanently closed its doors, citing revenue losses due to the pandemic and increased rent from its landlord.
The family-owned deli at the Borel Square Shopping Center at 59 Bovet Road in San Mateo had been in operation since 1956 and was known for its sandwiches, pasta and catering options. The deli employed eight people, some of whom worked there for 20 years before it closed.
Owner Bill Esposto, 67, said Dec. 24 was its last day open, and the restaurant vacated at the end of the month. He has spent the last few days since it closed cleaning up the restaurant and moving out equipment. Esposto’s father opened the restaurant in 1956, and Esposto bought it from his father 24 years ago. He has been a part of the store’s operations since he was 10.
“We did weddings over 50 years ago, and then we did their 50th wedding anniversary. That’s how long we have been in this city,” Esposto said. “We have a great family reputation. We have a great product.”
The San Mateo location was doing well until the pandemic when various restrictions and temporary closures occurred. When COVID-19 hit, the business saw a significant decrease in revenue, down to $25,000 to $30,000 a month. The catering revenue from places like Google and other companies also ended with offices closing. Esposto had to return wedding deposits for catering during the summer. The business received a Paycheck Protection Program loan earlier in the year, but the money ran out by summer. He and his family also own a wholesale bakery and a kitchen to go along with his retail locations. All his businesses have taken financial revenue losses during the year.
“We have to make a business decision to close this location because we can’t have indoor seating, we can’t have outdoor seating. It just doesn’t work for our business model,” Esposto said.
Esposto was frustrated with all of the county restrictions on restaurants, which he followed, while other nonrestaurant businesses had fewer restrictions and different rules for operating and closing. San Mateo County is currently under a regional stay-at-home order that has temporarily closed indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants and only allows catering operations. Restaurants in San Mateo County have had to temporarily shut down periodically throughout the year due to county COVID-19 restrictions.
One of his other challenges was an increase in rent from the landlords of Borel Square Shopping Center, Finn Capital LLC of San Mateo, Esposto said. The rent was raised from $6,200 to $9,200 in July. He had been trying to reach an amicable agreement with the landlords to find a solution but was unsuccessful. Esposto understood the landlord having to raise the rent, but he would have liked to have been able to find a solution to ensure the business could have stayed at its current location in San Mateo. He successfully found a deal with his San Francisco landlords for that deli location after negotiating a reduced rent but could not reach one in San Mateo.
“We can’t afford to pay $9,200 in rent when our sales are $30,000,” Esposto said.
Esposto and his family will get through the closure because of his other locations and businesses, but the San Mateo deli was the flagship location and a source of pride for his family. The deli provided a local option that people in the community could visit when they needed platters, pasta or sandwiches. Esposto was proud of its history within San Mateo and helping serve several generations in the community. He always took pride in having a business in San Mateo, sending his kids to school here and bringing them into the restaurant business. The deli supported local weddings, funerals and businesses throughout the area.
“That location, even if it didn’t make money, people knew we were there, and that was our go-to place. People knew we were there, and they could rely on us,” Esposto said.
Despite the closure, Esposto is confident his other businesses will get through the pandemic. He wants to find a different location in San Mateo to reopen but has not yet found a site. No timetable has been set for when they might reopen.
Jan 5 Correction: The article previously incorrectly stated Finn Capital Partners was the landlord who increased the rent at Esposto’s Deli. It is Finn Capital LLC of San Mateo. Information about reaching out to Finn Capital Partners has also been changed for clarity.
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