LYNN — First things first. It’s not Charlies, though that’s what everybody calls it.
Charlie runs it, cooks all the food, and gets up every morning at 3:30 to prepare for his day. His wife, Dottie, is the friendly woman behind the counter who gives meaning to the term “service with a smile.”
But the full name of the place is the Junction Deli — a name that has followed Charlie and Dottie Christopoulos around Lynn for 36 years. And as early as the end of this week, they’ll serve their last meal at the Exchange Street establishment.
They are retiring — or, as Dottie says, “we’re retiring from doing this. It’s time to do something else.”
Simply put, there have been too many changes to that part of the downtown area that haven’t exactly been advantageous to the small restaurant. Already, since the went into business in 1983, they’ve gone from being under the railroad bridge on the corner of Mt. Vernon and Exchange Streets, to Oxford Street, and to their current location next to the Santander Bank.
Dottie has lived in Peabody her whole life while Charlie came here in 1968 when he was 14 years old. He lived in Lynn, in several locations, including Wyman and Boston Streets and Beacon Hill Ave.
He worked for his father at the old Beef & Sea (now Heritage Park and Seaport Landing). When it closed, “I had to find a job,” he said.
That was in 1983. By this time, he and Dottie had been married for five years. They found a spot under the railroad bridge that proved to be a perfect location at the time.
“I had never fried an egg in my life,” said Charlie. “Every time I tried to make an over-easy egg, and put it on the grill, it would break.”
The area was a vibrant place because it was a bus roundabout, and there were other businesses around there. But the MBTA had plans for the area, and the entire block of businesses, which included a fruit market and the Dover News, was taken by eminent domain in 1987.
So, they rented space on Oxford Street for two years before the whole process repeated itself. When the current location came up for sale, they put in a bid for it and purchased it.
In the beginning, they say, there was enough going on to sustain the business. Slowly but surely, though, things changed.
“It kind of worked against us,” said Dottie. “First thing they did was move the buses (to the MBTA parking garage). That hurt a lot. People don’t want to go out of their way.”
Then, the city invited Dunkin Donuts to occupy a spot at the corner of Union Street and Central Square.
“Everything changed,” Dottie says.
But don’t get the idea they’re bitter. They are not.
“Lynn gave us a good living for 36 years,” Dottie said. “We served generations upon generations, and it’s lovely to know that.”
“We also have a great relationship with the Lynn Police,” Charlie says. “They always stopped by to check up on us.”
They have a lot of memories, from Julie Kramer of WFNX bringing would-be rock stars to the restaurant for lunch to politicians and other media personalities stopping by. But most of all, says Charlie, the people who came to the restaurant enriched their lives.
“The kind words and the compliments were very satisfying,” he said. “I like to joke around. I like to make people laugh. All the customers I got to know … that’s been special.”
“The days you ask yourself what you’re doing here someone will come in and tell me ‘you’re an angel’ or give me a nice compliment,” Dottie said. “There are a lot of times when someone says something that touches your soul.”
The actual date for Charlie and Dottie’s last day is tentatively Oct. 12 if everything goes well. The closing was not completed as of last week,
“If it gets delayed, perhaps we’ll stay open a little longer,” Dottie says.
But it’ll be temporary. One way or the other, the building and the property will be sold, and Dottiei and Charlie Christopoulos will say goodbye to an establishment that has served as a second home to many downtown residents.
“It’s just time to stop,” Dottie said. “We’re ready.”