Time was that you could find small grocery stores on almost every corner. In the days before people routinely traveled to large supermarkets, the neighborhood grocery was a downtown mainstay, a place where neighbors could catch up with each other while buying anything from soap to a loaf of bread.
That fixture of days gone by has returned to Dover in the form of Amici's Neighborhood Market, which opened May 2 at 212 S. Governor's Ave., around the corner from the new Bayard Apartments.
"We wanted to fill a real need," said store manager Becky Haas. "We wanted to offer something in the downtown that wasn't here."
Amici's – the name means "friends" in Italian – features groceries, a deli counter where sandwiches and warm meals are prepared, and a sit-down area with room for 12. Haas has even set up two small tables on the sidewalk so patrons may enjoy a meal or snack outside.
The store is bright and airy, with pale yellow walls that help open up the space with neatly stocked shelves lining the walls in front. The rear area is the domain of Head Chef Brian Lee, who deftly manages the grille and stove, creating everything from a bacon and egg breakfast to hearty cheesesteaks. Breakfast is served until 10:30 a.m.
"Something like this was needed downtown," he said as he prepared the grille for the day's customers. "It gives people a place to get fresh-made foods and sandwiches and almost anything else they might need.
"And what we serve is homemade, with an emphasis on freshness."
Amici's came about because there is no other place in the downtown area to buy groceries, Haas said. Area residents lost their only grocery when the Acme store shut down years ago, leaving downtown residents without any real choice when it comes to buying just a few basic items.
With Amici's located almost in the middle of downtown, customers only have to walk a short distance to find what they need, she said. People living in the Bayard Apartments have been dropping by, as well as others as word spreads about the new store. Haas also hopes to attract students from nearby Wesley College, government employees and even the casual customer waiting for some repair work at the Delaware Tire Center across the street.
"If you get hungry while you're waiting for your car, it'll be easy to just come on over and get a sandwich," she said.
Amici's deli features Boar's Head meats and cheeses, and the staff can prepare numerous types of sandwiches and subs, to include the Porchetta, a sandwich featuring pork tenderloin, provolone, broccoli rabe and red pepper aioli, served on an Italian roll, plus a creation called the "Holy Cheesus," a combination of four cheeses – American, Muenster, smoked Gouda and provolone – served on Panini bread.
Page 2 of 2 - The staff also can create hamburgers, flavored with Stonefly Spice Co. seasoning, salads, pasta, and a daily soup menu, as well as cupcakes and similar confections.
The store also offers catering services and will deliver prepared foods and groceries, Haas said.
Customers either can call, come in, or place an order via Amici's website, she added.
And, even though they're just getting started, Haas said there already are plans to install bistro-style tables out front as well as a red, green and white awning over the tables, as a means of both providing shade and attracting new customers.
"We're really proud of our food," Haas said. "Once our neighbors have had the Amici's experience, we think they'll come back for more."
Amici's is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.