A customer makes an order on Dec. 20, hours before the Lakeside Deli & Cafe closed for good inside the American City Building.
A customer makes an order on Dec. 20, hours before the Lakeside Deli & Cafe closed for good inside the American City Building. (Photo by Nate Pesce, Patuxent Homestead)

The downtown Columbia lakefront is undergoing change that will benefit residents and visitors alike.

A new Whole Foods is slated to open next year in the former Rouse Co. building, and a Petit Louis Bistro is scheduled to open in early 2014. A pathway loop around Lake Kittamaqundi is just about complete, and earlier this year Clyde's underwent a renovation.


There is, however, one change that some residents are lamenting — the relocation of the popular Lakeside Deli & Cafe, which closed its doors for good Dec. 20 inside the American City Building.

"Things change and you have to be ready for it, but I don't think we were ready for this," said Adrien Meskin, a 30-plus year resident of the Water's Edge townhouse community who frequents the establishment weekly with fellow Water's Edge residents Judy Hoke and Betty Jo Bertrand.

While Meskin and other cafe regulars, who know it as "Lakeside," are saddened by its departure, they are comforted knowing that owner Michael So plans to reopen in a comparable space at 70 Corporate Center, less than a mile away at the corner of Broken Land Parkway and Little Patuxent Parkway.

So, who owns the deli with his wife, Min, said he is scheduled to open in April, although he is hoping it could happen in March.

So said building owner Howard Hughes Corp., which also owns Corporate Center, approached them with the offer.

"They offered us to go there and we took it," said So, who also operates Michael's Deli Cafe, located in the Medical Pavilion building on Charter Drive, in Columbia.

John DeWolf, senior vice president of Howard Hughes, said no lease has been signed on the new space but confirmed the move is being discussed.

A move by Lakeside will leave only four tenants in the American City building — a U.S. post office, Columbia Archives and Artists' Gallery on the ground floor and a third-floor tenant.

The current lease for the post office expires at the end of May 2014, and negotiations to renew the lease are ongoing, DeWolf said earlier this month.

As for the building, DeWolf has said Howard Hughes has plans to remodel exterior and is looking for a single tenant to fill the building's vacant space.

So said he as operated the deli for eight years at its lakefront location. He said he is sad about leaving the lakefront but excited to be reunited under the same roof as Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that relocated into four floors at Corporate Center in August 2012 after decades in the American City building.

So said many of the deli's regulars work at Enterprise, and that their departure was difficult on business.

"We still made it, but it was not like it used to be," he said.

The new space will be slightly smaller than the current location, So said, but will have a more robust outdoor patio. He added the layout of the kitchen will be more efficient than the current configuration.


For customers, the service at Lakeside has made it a special place.

"There's tremendous service here, the atmosphere is good, friendly, warm and homey," said Larry Stevens, who lives off Broken Land Parkway. "They are always happy and always have smiles. It's very inviting."

Meskin said Lakeside is one-of-a-kind.

"They know our names, we know their names. There's no other place like this, really," she said.

Hoke described it as "an old-fashioned coffee shop," a place where residents can meet to talk about community issues.

All four regulars said they plan to continue to patronize the deli once it reopens, which So said has been a common response.

"When you develop a friendship with your customers its hard to move," he said. "But we are ready to take on a new adventure and whatever it leads to."