One of the most quintessentially New York parts of living in New York is finding a nearby deli to call your own. In a city where almost nobody drives and large trips to a grocery or department store aren’t worth the trouble of schlepping your haul, the corner deli becomes the place where New Yorkers’ lives tell a story, purchase by purchase. There are the regular purchases– coffee creamer, shampoo, stamps– and the purchases that, added up, tell a story. That bottle of champagne. Flu medication. Two boxes of Kleenex to nurse a broken heart. And the hardworking deli owners, often immigrants, each have fascinating stories of their own.
This inspired two New York City designers, Yoonjin “Zoonzin” Lee and Nova Pan, to create an art series they call “Deli Deli” in which they spotlight deli owners from around the city. They bring the deli owner’s stories to life, both in a blog and in a small-print series of customized books.
Each of the books profiles the story of the owner of each deli, photographs of their families and their journey to get where they are today.
Lee and Pan work together to compile the stories and photographs and print five copies of each book with stickers for the deli owners to give to their regular customers.
The layout is simple: they juxtapose a quote from the owner with one of his or her photographs, either personal or taken by Lee and Pan.
“The owners of these delis may not be famous people and may not have the story of how they invented a world-changing product,” they said in a PSFK interview, “Us ordinary people sharing our ordinary lives is the reason why our lives are actually interesting.”
Photo credit: Deli Deli