October 10, 2013
Littlejohn's has been a staple on The Corner at the University of Virginia for nearly four decades. Now, the deli is about to branch out.
A ten-store, multi-state expansion is in the works, beginning with an addition close to home.
Littlejohn's will open a store at The Shops at Stonefield in Albemarle County by the end of this year.
It's the first of several new openings planned for the family-owned business after partnering with local private equity firm New City Capital.
"I think I might have been the first dishwasher. I remember washing dishes in the back thinking I love this place and hopefully I'll be back to run it when I'm older," said Littlejohn's owner Chris Strong. "Twenty-five years later, I'm back with my family and we're on the verge of expansion, so it really is a dream come true."
After the Stonefield store opens, the initial roll out will continue with others in Richmond and northern Virginia.
That means loyal diners like the Riley family from Richmond won't have to travel far to get their fix.
"We never come to Charlottesville without stopping at Littlejohn's," said Dan Riley.
During the rest of the expansion, Littlejohn's will focus on the ACC and college towns similar to Charlottesville.
"Like Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Durham, College Park, Maryland and as far down as Georgia Tech in Atlanta," said Strong.
Littlejohn's knows there is a market there. The deli takes pride in feeding the visiting sports teams when they come to town to play UVa.
Despite the major expected growth, the home base isn't going anywhere, which is good news for new and old Wahoos.
"It's like a landmark of the UVa. Corner," said student Taylor Jordan.
"My parents graduated in '84 and they came to Littlejohn's, so this is the first place I went to when I visited UVa," said third-year student Allie Griswold.
Strong says the original shop, which so many have come to love, won't lose its appeal.
"We have customers who have vehemently said to me, 'Don't change a thing. Don't change a thing that you're doing on The Corner. If you change anything, you're in big trouble,'" said Strong. "So we're very attentive to that."
Strong says the family has been considering expansion for years, but now is the right time because technology has made it easier to ensure consistency, no matter where deli is located.
"For us, it's quality of life, it's quality of the experience. It's not about getting big. It's bringing great sandwiches to every man," said Strong.
Littlejohn's at The Shops at Stonefield is slated to open in mid-to-late December.