How Charity, Bagels and Hockey Led Blue Line Deli to New Heights

In March 2020, Donald Rosner opened the Blue Line Deli in Huntington, NY. A dream came true for Rosner, but the timing of its opening couldn’t have been worse. At the same time, the COVID-19 shutdowns were beginning to take shape and wreak havoc on the hospitality industry. Despite the difficult circumstances surrounding his opening, as of April 2022 his deli has had multiple locations and has worked with members of the NBA and NHL.

The beginning

The Blue Line Deli story begins with the closure of another deli in the exact same building. “My mom called me and said the deli in Huntington was broke,” Rosner said. “I used to walk here every day as a kid and I went to school just around the corner.” His familiarity with the area and his love for the New York Islanders inspired him to open the hockey deli. The deli’s logo is bright blue and orange with an islanders’ flag waving in front of it. On the inside, the walls are adorned with decals of various NHL team logos and hockey menu items.

While Rosner struggled to build an early customer base, he went to great lengths to send groceries to frontline workers dealing with the pandemic. “All the money I had as working capital went towards donating food to charity,” Rosner said. He has no regrets about the decision, but combined with complications related to the pandemic, it almost forced his deli to close early.

It was at this point, however, that word of Rosner’s good deeds and Islander-themed delicacies began to spread within the Islander fandom. “Islander fans started following me on Twitter and following the things I said and because of all the work we’ve done, they’ve been bombarding us with support,” Rosner said.

Gabe Tacuri is one of the deli’s customers who found out about its existence via Twitter. “I follow a lot of Islanders fans on Twitter and they’ve praised the deli for its food and atmosphere,” Tacuri said. Rosner’s following grew even stronger when he ran a promotion giving away free blue and orange colored bagels themed to the Islanders’ playoff wins in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The islanders take note

It was at this point that the deli’s newfound popularity not only rescued him from dire straits, but caught the attention of Islanders co-owner John Ledecky. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ledecky over the past year and a half and his commitment to the team and fan base is inspiring,” said Rosner. “He’s been to my shop a few times and we even made a sandwich in his honor.”

Courtesy of Twitter/@ChrisBottaNHL

Rosner’s familiarity with team ownership made him ambitious for a massive expansion opportunity; a seat in the team’s new home at the UBS Arena. The new arena at Belmont Park was purpose-built to host the New York Islanders and opened in November 2021 to host their home games in the 2021-22 season. “I reached out to them very early on, before the building was even built, and we had a great connection the entire time,” Rosner said. With that, it was announced that Blue Line Deli would indeed be a concession option within the UBS Arena. It was a move that left satisfied local customers like Catherine Josefak, who was delighted the beloved deli was included. “Most arenas and stadiums don’t have such food,” Josefak said. “I love that they have the blue and orange bagels because it’s really festive for the games.”

Collaboration with a sports icon

Courtesy of Twitter/@Bluelinedeli719

The expansion in UBS Arena opened the door to another project, this time in collaboration with an NBA legend. UBS Arena announced a partnership with Big Chicken, a fried chicken brand notably owned by Shaquille O’Neal. As part of their entry into the arena, the brand sought a collaboration with Rosner. “I was contacted by Big Chicken a few months before the arena opened; They wanted some New York flair on their menu,” Rosner said. Together, they created a sandwich aptly named “The Islander,” featuring Big Chicken’s buffalo chicken patty sandwiched between Rosner’s famous blue and orange bagel. It was an idea that Rosner was proud to say he had a great influence on in the creation of it.

epilogue

This local business, once threatened with closure within months of opening, has now partnered with members of two professional sports leagues. It’s a rather unexpected success story, one that Rosner believes was the result of his early charity work. “People welcomed what we were doing here, and when I wanted to help the frontline workers, the community stood behind what we were doing and made it all possible,” Rosner said.

In an increasingly negative world, Rosner’s main goal is to bring some happiness to the local community. “My opinion is if you can make a few people smile a day, you might make others smile too and it can be a domino effect of happy people!” Rösner said. He hopes to continue to grow the Long Island deli business and continue to bring something positive into people’s lives in the future.

Featured image courtesy of Twitter/@Bluelinedeli719

Stay tuned to our NHL page for more updates!

‘From our house to yours’

Leave a Comment