The Cavalier Daily
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Littlejohn’s Deli to return to the Corner

The community favorite will reopen sometime this semester after closing during the pandemic.

<p>According to Smyth, there have been challenges along the way to restoring this nostalgic restaurant.</p>

According to Smyth, there have been challenges along the way to restoring this nostalgic restaurant.

Four years after closing its doors, Littlejohn’s New York Delicatessen is making a return to the Corner, reopening on 1427 University Ave. some time during the spring semester.

Class of 1994 alumnus Bill Smyth, who was also an accomplished swimmer and coach for the University swim team, returned to Charlottesville after retiring from his position as a swim coach at Boston University to reopen the restaurant alongside business partners Dain North and Stefan Friedman. The trio has been working on reopening the deli since last September and will be the restaurant’s third set of owners.

Despite a few updates to the interior and the ordering system, the restaurant will maintain many defining characteristics of the original iteration of Littlejohn’s. 

“The interior is going to be different than what people remember from the original Littlejohn's,” Smyth said. “The owners that were after the first iteration of Littlejohn’s and between us did some redesigning and because of that we’re still doing some redesign to bring back some of the things that folks remember.” 

A number of menu favorites will also be returning, such as the Nuclear Sub and the Chris Long, famously named after the University alum and previous NFL Athlete. Many of these classics existed during Smyth’s time at the University, during which he himself frequented Littlejohn’s quite often.  

“Littlejohn’s started in 1976 and I was in school here in the fall of 89,” Smyth said. “I have many Littlejohn’s memories — some during lunches, some during weekends, and certainly some after hours.” 

Other alumni hold similarly fond memories of the restaurant. One of Littlejohn’s many fans is Jason Manley, who attended the University from 1997 to 1999. 

“It sounds kind of nuts but going to Littlejohn’s — especially the line by the counter — was sort of like walking into a wooden hug,” Manley wrote in a statement to The Cavalier Daily. “It was always comfortable, whether there were five people in there or 50. The crowd was probably the best cross section of the University community anywhere around — pretty much everybody went there.”

Littlejohn's new owners are interested in more than just a great dining experience. According to Smyth, the community is what’s most important. 

“It’s another way for the current students, no matter what years they are, to connect … it's one of those things where we want to be able to help make certain parts of the corner locally owned and operated,” Smyth said. “By doing that, it connects you to the years past, and it'll allow you to take the first years and the high school seniors coming up and tell them ‘Oh, there's this great place down on the corner where you can take your friends and your classmates.’”

Littlejohn’s reopening goes against the current trend where, due to rising rents and difficulties faced by the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Corner has seen significant turnover. More national chains, such as the Raising Cane’s which opened in September, have been moving into locations once held by locally owned businesses. 

According to Smyth, there have been challenges along the way to restoring this nostalgic restaurant. Facilities management has proved difficult due to the age of the building and this is Smyth’s first venture into the restaurant industry. He said that working with an experienced general manager and business partners has been incredibly helpful.

Smyth said that an exact reopening date has not been placed on the calendar, but he believes they will meet their goal to open sometime this semester. By doing so, he hopes that graduating fourth years will have a chance to stop and embrace the deli’s sense of community and tradition before they leave the University. 

University and Charlottesville community members can follow the restaurant’s journey towards reopening via their Instagram page. 


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