Lange’s of Scarsdale has been a staple in the village since 1972.
As of May 31, it will be no longer. The closing of this Scarsdale institution is a huge loss. As a deli it was known for sandwiches — the Grand Canyon chicken cutlet BLT was the best seller — fresh chopped salads with choose-your-own ingredients, and catered platters of wraps.
After it expanded and added a pizzeria with seating for 50, Lange’s became popular with locals who lunch and a hangout for Scarsdale High School kids — something the Teen Center never managed to do.
Adding the pizza oven and tables/chairs seemed like a good idea, but the profit margin for pizza can be low — the industry average is a mere 7%, which means $1,000 in pizza sales earns the seller $70 — so the owner would need a lot of volume to pay the rent.
It certainly was busy. On any given weekday during lunchtime, Lange’s was packed, and long lines formed at the deli counter while the kitchen staff sped around making sandwiches to deliver to Scarsdale High School.
So, if it’s been successful and beloved, why is Lange’s closing and why now?
A manager at the shop told the Inquirer Lange’s owner Anthony Domini tried to sell the place, but couldn’t close the deal.
We couldn’t reach Domini for comment, but he reportedly told his landlord it simply was time to move on. Can’t blame him when you consider that, according to industry sources, common reasons owners list pizzerias for sale include retirement, burnout, illness, poor performance, new opportunities or financial issues.
Everyone knows the restaurant business is tough; not only because customers are fickle, but also because owners face ever-rising costs for ingredients, labor, taxes, utilities and insurance, in addition to health permits and rent. For Lange’s 3,000-square-foot space on Spencer Place with a full kitchen and pizza oven, the landlord said he’s asking a monthly rate in the mid-$50s per square foot.
Maybe Lange’s couldn’t keep up with high rent and rising costs and still keep its customers satisfied.
Whatever the reason is for the closing, let it be a reminder — if we want good businesses to thrive here, we have to patronize them or they will be gone. They have bills to pay and they need to make a profit. Overhead can run especially high in boutique towns like Scarsdale, and if we remain complacent, we will see more merchants closing.
Not just the restaurants or delis; we need to invest in the vitality of all local merchants. If it’s important, we need to say so with our wallets.
At the same time, businesses here have to decide who they want to serve and then be responsive to customers’ preferences and schedules. If they work hard to appeal to customers and stay accessible, they will reap the benefits.
Maybe Lange’s overextended itself when it expanded a decade ago. Within a fairly short period of time the pizzeria started closing earlier and eventual closed at the same time as the deli. Eateries like Lange’s should consider staying open later. It closed at 6 for years, but it’s current closing time is 4 p.m. (5 on Thursdays and Fridays), so it never really was an option for commuters who wanted to takeout or grab a bite on their way home from work. On Christie Place, Marie’s (formerly Salzburg’s) used to be open until 7 p.m. daily, but now its website says it closes at 6 p.m. A hungry resident was disappointed last week to discover it had closed even earlier — at 5 p.m. In a commuter town, they do themselves a disservice by closing early.
For nostalgic residents — current and former — Lange’s was a favorite hangout and a downtown destination, so where will all the folks (especially the teens) seeking food and a place to gather go?
Nothing will ever satisfy like Lange’s. As one of its faithful fans said, it is the deli by which all other delis are measured.