The legacy continued. The owner of the Shortstop Deli in Ithaca, N.Y., Chuck Dong had worked at the deli and convenience store for 25 years when store owners Albert and Cindy Smith opted to retire in 2015 after 37 years in business.

That’s when the couple sold the store to Dong, who had a deep commitment to the deli and strong local ties to the Ithaca community, were he was born and raised. “I'm carrying on their legacy and not reinventing the wheel,” said Dong.

Known for award-winning fresh and made-to-order sub sandwiches, Shortstop Deli is home of the famous Hot Truck Pizza Sub, which has been featured on “Serious Eats” and the Food Network.

One way Shortstop Deli generated revenue during the pandemic—while at the same time giving back to the community—was formulating a partnership with local charities. “It was for a gift card drive and fundraiser,” Dong said.

It proved to be a perfect cycle. “Customers and donors were able to buy (and donate) Shortstop Deli gift cards, which created immediate revenue for the deli. We then redistributed the gifts cards to the local charities to be ultimately given to families in need during the peak of the pandemic,” he said. “Families then used gift cards in the deli for sandwiches and groceries.” The program generated close to $10,000 of much-needed revenue during the heart of the pandemic.

“The heart and soul of this community is what kept our doors open,” Dong said.

Chuck Dong of Shortstop Deli.