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For a month he took leave from work to help his mom and dad, aunts and uncles, rebuild not only a family business but also their home in the neighborhood. During the six months before they reopened, customers and neighbors kept stopping by to check on them.
A plaque at Joseph’s went up to commemorate “Surviving for Our Patrons,” and business soon boomed again, with Jamal as co-owner/manager.
But when the Hishmehs sold Joseph’s Deli about a year ago, and Jamal, Mary, Willie, and longtime staffers left, it felt like another natural disaster to many loyal patrons who saw them as family.
Luckily for them, the Hishmehs just can’t stay away.
Nearly 18 years after starting their hometown deli, and 12 since the hurricane, they’ve bought Joseph’s back, remaining truer than ever to that Hurricane Charley commemorative plaque.
The busy clinking of cutlery and plates now fills the dining room again, every mealtime, as word gets out that the Hishmehs are back.
Jamal and the counter team, including new faces Missy Platt and Ashley Tyson, Jennifer Hishmeh, Tara Gray, and Michelle Stephens, are there to greet regulars by name, with a smile, whenever they come through the door.
Original owners come home to Joseph’s Deli ... again
By SUE WADE
In 1999, Joseph’s Deli--half the size of its current space on Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte, with a mural of New York City spanning one wall--was for sale. Willie Hishmeh, who’d been operating a sub shop and a carpet business in town, sold both enterprises to plow the profits into his new deli.
And business was great—until, five years later, Hurricane Charley visited their block without much advance notice. Willie’s son, Jamal, who was working in Orlando at the time, watched in horror as weather reports began showing that his dad’s deli was basically wearing a bull’s-eye. And Charley, as we now know, had good aim.
Jamal rushed home to find the deli roof caved in; furniture and equipment blown into the back of the unit; the New York mural effectively erased; and two blocks of businesses on that side of the Trail flattened like a war zone.