Hicksville native Chris DeFeo, 20, recently opened a deli on West John Street. A grand opening will take place on Jan. 22. Photo by Katie Mehr
The only class Chris DeFeo ever failed in school was economics. "It's funny. I think it's ironic because look at me now," said 20-year-old DeFeo who, only three years after he graduated from St. Anthony's High School, has opened his own deli in Hicksville.
"It's something that came naturally to him," said his father, Harry Defeo, who owns Harbor Deli in Port Washington. "My wife and I are very proud of him for such an accomplishment."
Chris DeFeo opened DEFO's Deli, which is spelled like his high school nickname, last August and two days later opened the doors to the public. "The first week was nuts," he said. "I was in here scrubbing on my hands and knees while placing orders on the phone."
When the discussion of owning a deli became more serious, DeFeo began stirring up his menu. He created specialty sandwich menus with items named after local places, including the "Route 106" and "The Broadway Mall." He developed a "Create Your Own Specialty Salad" where customers can choose from a list of salad makings and toppings. He also created a large selection of pre-made salads and sandwiches for "on-the-go" customers. He also serves a variety of catering items as well.
Despite the large variety of products offered, DeFeo cannot sell alcohol because he is not yet 21. However, he said his business is not hurt by it. "There are other things I can sell instead," he said. "And because there is a 7-Eleven on one side of me and a bar on the other, there is no reason for me to carry it."
DeFeo had a knack for the deli business at an even younger age. When he was 10 years old, he helped his father load and unload vending machines, and by 12, he was behind the counter making sandwiches. Four years later, he was running his father's deli on Sundays and saving his money to buy a deli of his own.
"I learned the concept of what [my father] did and I nailed it. I learned through his mistakes and successes," he said, adding that working with his father at such a young age prepared him for the future. "It's a learning process," Defeo said. "I'm young and creative and have a lot of new ideas. [The deli] is a good entrepreneurship start for me."
DEFO's Deli, located at 392 West John Street, is open Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. A grand opening will take place on Sunday, Jan. 22. The event will feature specialty sandwiches, a Super Bowl party package and a raffle.