The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot. But what the virus can’t touch is the things that bring us comfort.
“They feel like they want comfort food, and so, they come to a deli and we provide that to them,” Jacqueline Canter said of her customers that visit her deli.
Canter is the third-generation owner of Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district. The deli first opened in the 1930s.
“As far as the celebrities go, Beyonce was here, I don’t even know where to start,” she said of the big names that have come to Canter’s over the years.
Canter's has been used as a location to film movies and TV shows over the years. Its eternal autumn ceiling is unmistakable for many in Los Angeles and has been featured in plenty of movies and TV shows.
“It’s probably the most photographed ceiling, next to the Sistine chapel. I see it on a lot of people’s phones,” worker Greg Dovell said.
This past year has proven to challenge even the sturdiest of landmarks.
“I worked all my life. I worked since I was 14 years old, and I’m 58 now. So, it was difficult not working,” Dovell said.
Dovell is back working at Canter’s. The deli can only be a quarter full right now, but that’s better than what’s been the reality for much of the pandemic.
“Originally, it was going to be for two weeks, kind of flatten the curve thing two weeks, but of course, we found it took more than two weeks to do that,” Dovell said.
When coronavirus set in, the health department banned indoor dining and mostly kept it that way until last month.
Canter’s survived off take-out and delivery apps but many employees, like Dovell, were out of work for close to a year.
“Thank God unemployment was there; thank God the stimulus had come out,” he said.
In March, Los Angeles County lifted those indoor dining restrictions, bringing people like Guy and Leslie Devillez back.
“It was so weird to see the empty booths, because it usually clatters in here where you usually can’t hear anything,” Guy Devillez said of Canter’s.
The couple says they usually come to Canter’s every couple of months, and on this particular morning, they were celebrating getting their COVID-19 vaccines at a health center nearby.
Frustration over California’s strict COVID-19 measures is one of the driving forces behind an effort to recall its governor.
However, the couple says they support their state’s approach.
“We have people in power here in California who have brains,” Leslie Devillez said. “We’re happy to follow it.”
“We follow whatever the politicians tell us to do. We just follow the order of the law,” Jacqueline Canter said.
As restrictions continue to lift, Canter will be able to hire back even more of the dozens of employees she had to lay off last year.