Every neighborhood needs a deli. A deli is a small market that sells deli meat as well as assorted groceries.
New Dorp Beach had four.
My first deli was the one located at Wavecrest and Cedar Grove. This is the oldest retail building in New Dorp Beach.
I knew it first as the Duo Deli, and it’s where I bought my first Rubik’s Cube. Tainted Love was playing on the radio, I was wearing LA Gear, it was very 80s at the time.
I believe it became the Cedar Grove Deli in the late 80s, and it had the familiar Wavecrest side layout, with the counter right along that wall and the refrigerators along the opposite Maple side wall. In the middle were several rows of assorted grocery fare, cans of Alpo and PacMan pasta with dust on top, a rack with some expired Italian bread.
But along the storefront wall, WWF Superstars stood. The greatest wrestling game of the arcade era. Hacksaw Jim Dugan. The Ultimate Warrior. Hulk Hogan. You can play as any of the Superstars era. This game is how video gaming in the 90s started in New Dorp Beach.
The game was replaced one day in 1991. The main force in this industry at this time was Staten Island Amusement. They maintained all of the coin operated equipment throughout the borough. Any quarter vending machine in any mom and pop shop, Staten Island Amusement was supplying. Any arcade game, it came from them. With arcade video gaming entering a peak, many stores were on board with fleecing children of the money their parents gave them or that they had earned by turning in bottles and cans found along the beach and in the woods. We were cleaning the woods because we were mindless zombies addicted to the greatest arcade game of all time, Street Fighter 2.
After that, Mortal Kombat, they built a small game room in the back, brought in the Terminator 2 pinball machine and the rest was history.
And then when that wasn’t going on, the side of the deli was always a suicide wall and the place where everyone ultimately congregated, since one cannot hang out in front of the deli all of the. One must also hang out on either side of the deli at any particular time to give the front a rest.
Around the same time that Street Fighter came out, someone had the bright idea to build a Chinese Restaurant called Emerald Bay on the dirt lot covered in weeds where Chris Guardino and myself captured several dozen snakes over the years. This new building introduced a new architectural feature to our games of Suicide… The ricochet. It restricted the game to the front part of the wall, which also resulted in more likelihood of smashing the lone hopper window in the brick wall.
This era of arcade entertainment and athletic handball achievement coincided with a golden age of sugar candy. Eye Poppers. Cry Babies. War Heads. Built on the shoulders of the Willy Wonka empire, which bought every out in the end. Fun Dip. Pixi Stix. Bazooka.
And every kind of snack chip, from Bravos to Doritos, every kind of soda from Manhattan Specials to Tropical Fantasy.
And then, as learned later on in the 90s, 1997, they had every type of beer, from Sapporo to Corona. Oh, what fun and revelry that deli induced through the indiscriminate sales of alcohol and cigarettes to the local minor citizens of New Dorp Beach. We would climb those dunes of sand, made of demolished rubble of the torn down clubhouses and resorts, and throw empty bottles into the woods hoping they would break but most would not, empty cans of Sapporo and unbroken bottles of Corona are still 5 cents each return, and now we were refunding the whole cycle all over again like our drunken uncles and aunts before us. And it was never someone’s mom or dad that bought you beer. It was always someone’s ne’er do well aunt or uncle.
That deli isn’t there anymore, but the building it was in still stands. It has the same shell, the same brickwork, the same apartment layout, and the same roof. The first level is now a church, and so continues the tradition of people gathering at the corner of Wavecrest and Cedar Grove.