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Hometown Heroes: The Deli The Jensen Beach Community Built

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HHLOGOsmallEach year in the United States 30,000 new restaurants open and 9,000 close their doors.

Joseph and Anne Shakra set their family name in place in Rio in 1972.  Following in the tracks of countless small town mom and pops before him, he did what Americans do best—run their own businesses.  Joseph Shakra opened a deli.  Unknowingly, he prepared the way for three generations.  Jeff Shakra, Big Joe’s son, took over as the second generation owner at age 19.   Later moving into downtown Jensen Beach, Shakra’s Deli became a piece of small town history. 

A town and its history are built upon families.  Jensen Beach sits on the Atlantic’s Treasure Coast in South Florida.  In 2010, Jensen held 11,700 residents and 3,200 families. In 2007, the town carried about 50 food and accommodation establishments.IMG_0341

Though Joseph Shakra began Shakra’s Deli 41 years ago, a calamity nearly closed the mom and pop.  How a family’s deli was rebuilt is history.

In 2012, Jeff and Anuhea Shakra were shaken to their core.  Just returning from a family vacation, they were given a 60-day eviction notice to “get out.”   A restaurant doesn’t just move from location to location.  The owners invest in the building.  Jeff and Anuhea had to leave behind an investment in their business: new tile, a hood for cooking, a water heater, sinks, renovated bathrooms, $20,000 in water lines, $10,000 in a deck and awning—totaling around $80,000.

Without a legal paper contract, Jeff Shakra had made a rental deal with the owner of the building from whom he rented in downtown Jensen. The two shook on it.  Later, Jeff and Anuhea  were first offered to purchase the property after hard economic times hit the landlord.  Knowing the age of the building, they turned him down.  The property sold. 

Jeff and Anuhea Shakra

Jeff and Anuhea Shakra

Jeff Shakra is known as the “handshake” man.  Humble yet firmly principled, he represents the honor of our past generation—a man whose word is followed through.   In this culture of shifting values, there are many, as Jeff Shakra will testify, who still live in this way.  These folks are the underlying fabric of Jensen Beach.

The eviction notice left 50-year-old Jeff Shakra crushed.  He remembers, “I was knocked down off my feet and almost wanted to give up.”  Cutting back on all expenses, the family let their health insurance go.  They had $50,000 set aside, but it wasn’t enough to restart.  Jeff borrowed against his whole life insurance policy, decreasing its face value.  Anuhea meanwhile paid off their purveyors before they left the downtown location—to make sure they’d have the food supplies they needed when the deli reopened.  Shakra’s Deli extended their hours, staying open late, to bring in every cent it could.

Next, Jeff went to a local bank—a bank he’d done business with for more than 25 years.  There he asked for a small business loan.  No loan materialized.  The bank had been affected by the economic downturn as well, was sold, and its name changed.

As the Shakra family pulled together during this stressful time, the community did too.

One day, Brian Grunbaum walked into Shakra’s.   He had an offer.  His dad had put him in charge of the deli’s relocation.  Charles Grunbaum and his wife Vivian arranged for a loan at Gulf Stream Business Bank.  Then Charles Grunbaum made room for Shakra’s in his plaza on Jensen Beach Boulevard, outside downtown Jensen.   A plan was put into place, but there was still a financial shortage.  Finally, Charles Grunbaum gave the Shakras a personal loan of $35,000, which has already been paid back.

Others came to aid the Shakras.  They overwhelmingly responded in various ways but with the same sentiment, “Your family has served the community for 41 years.  We would like to serve you.”

A benefit was held.

Moose of TC Paddle gave Jeff and Anuhea a place to put their equipment in storage. 

Mike Voorhees let them store more equipment for six months in a storage trailer.

Joe Shakra, Jeff’s brother, put in a cash counter for them and designed the fresco on the south wall.

Every car the Shakras had broke down.  Frank Zurawski fixed them on credit.

Sherwin Williams donated the paint for the new deli.

Kent’s Karpentry provided painters free of charge.

FishEye Graphics, owned by Ryan Carmody, created the new Shakra signs.

Anuhea worried about being out of touch with the restaurant’s patrons.  She did her best to keep in touch through social media’s Facebook.  Many liked the page and followed the reopening progress, even stopping by to see the new location from time to time.  ‘Would patrons come back?’ she fretted.

Seven months later, Shakra’s Deli reopened.  On the first day they were slammed.  At the end of the first week, they began to pay down their debt.

Today, Jeff and Anuhea are not just grateful –they are overjoyed.  Business is good.  Parking is ample.  But in their own words, they say this, “The Lord placed us here to help more within the community.  Our business is better.  So today we give more than we ever could before.” 

And they do. 

Did you know that the Shakras regularly fill food pantries for the homeless and needy, contribute to local charities like Habitat for Humanity, the SPCA, and the Humane Society?  Even recently, Jeff heard of a family whose children were going hungry.  Both he and Anuhea gave them groceries.

And did you know that they support several Jensen Beach High School sports teams?  They give.

Because they understand what it’s like to be in trouble financially, they help others.  They believe in blessing others because they have been blessed.

When asked what he thinks others should know, Jeff states this, “Serve the community as if they were family.  Invest in the community.  You can call it Shakra’s, but it’s the ‘Deli That the Community Built.’  Small town America must be kept alive.  Customers like mom and pops.”

Because Jensen Beach aided its own, Shakra’s Deli is able to help others.  In the future, Jeff and Anuhea would like to continue to grow with the community.

This week’s Hometown Heroes are the people of Jensen Beach—who came together to support one of their own. 

The Shakra family are also Hometown Heroes:  They are overcomers who kept their faith in a time of crisis and with courage continued.

Come to see three generations of a small town deli still working side-by-side:  Shakra’s The Deli provides catering to weddings, private parties, and events. Delivery is in the Jensen area during lunch hours.  Call your order in 772-334-3641 Find the establishment online at www.Shakrasdeli.com Keep abreast of specials and Shakra’s events by “liking” them on Facebook.

HAVE A HERO TIP? Hometown Heroes are in every town and city. They are regular people who have made a positive difference in their community, impacting others for the better. Send your Hometown Hero tip to Kelly Jadon  kfjadon@gmail.com or find her online at kellyjadon.com.

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About Kelly Jadon

Kelly Jadon is an avid freelance writer; she has been mentioned in books, online and at MD Anderson regarding her work. She writes the syndicated column Hometown Heroes, which is read both online and in print across the United States. *Writer: Personal content syndicated to online news outlets (Fox News, Reuters, etc.) and print newspapers. *Online Publisher: Created a website (Basil & Spice) which delivered news content to online and print newspapers and university libraries (McClatchey-Tribune, Gale Cengage, Proquest, Google, etc..); carried more than 400 noteworthy authoritative professional contributors. *Interviewer: Khaliah Ali, Mandisa, Andy Andrews, Tosca Reno, Hector Roca & Bruce Silverglade of Gleason’s Gym, Jeanette Jenkins, Ricki Lake, Donny Poole, etc.. *Teacher/Instructor: More than 25 years in the field of education *Find Kelly Jadon online at http://kellyjadon.com/blog/
  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Sounds like a great place to visit!