COLUMBUS (WCMH) — For the last times, the jingling of a sleigh bell rang through the Easy Living Café every time the delicatessen’s door opened.
The cheerful sound of the holiday brought a smile to the faces of those working behind the counter and mixed with the melancholy that such a sound will soon cease to occur.
Behind the counter, one of the greatest kickers in Ohio State University history gleefully piled pastrami high on his special sandwich.
Vlade Janakievski was all smiles Monday; even though it was the last day he would sell sandwiches for customers at the shop he has owned and operated since the mid-80’s.
Christmas Eve was the last day of operations for the Easy Living Café, it is closing to make room for a new development to come in.
The building it is housed in currently will be torn down sometime next year and replaced with a mixed-use residential/retail high rise.
Inside the café, patrons who have frequented the popular Columbus food landmark for years stopped in to say goodbye and have one last bite.
One of Janakievski’s teammates from 1977 came by early this week. Jeff Logan was a running back for the scarlet and grey from 1974-77 and was a placeholder from time to time when Janakievski would kick field goals and extra points in his rookie year on the team.
Logan has been coming to Janakievski’s deli since it was opened twice a week on Tuesday’s and Thursdays.
“I’m kind of sad to see it go,” said Logan.
Janakievski took time away from his duties behind the counter to come out and say hello to Logan’s family which accompanied him for lunch.
They were surrounded by Ohio State paraphernalia, the café truly a shrine to athletes and athletics at the university.
The appreciation those athletes and coaches have had for Janakievski cannot be understated.
On the wall is a framed letter from Head Football Coach Urban Meyer thanking Janakievski for the catering his business supplies.
On a foam pad you would have seen wrapped around a goal post years ago are dozens upon dozens of signatures scrawled in black ink on the red surface.
Some of the names are clearly legible including one belonging to former head football coach Jim Tressel.
His message to the businessman Janakievski, “To Vlade, a great Hall-of-Famer and a great friend! Yea Ohio!”
It is the chance to bump into a current or former Buckeye great that brought some people to the deli, but there was something else that kept them coming back time and time again.
“They know everybody and you just feel really comfortable and it’s like going home to your grandma’s kitchen or your mom’s kitchen,” said Debbie Grunkemeyer, the mother of a recently graduated graduate student from Arizona.
Grunkemeyer grew up in Ohio and left for Arizona around the time Vlade was finishing up at the University.
Every time she would visit her son or family in Columbus, she would always stop by Easy Living Café for a sandwich.
I sat down with Janakievski and asked him what his favorite part about running his deli was, and what he will miss the most.
“Meeting great people here,” said Janakievski “It’s gonna be sad.”
Despite his sadness, Janakievski says this is the beginning of Easy Living’s next chapter.
“It’s not gonna go away in my memories,” said Janakievski. “It was a great run.”
A run that will continue in a slightly different format; Janakievski’s catering businesses will still be operational.
It can be found online here: (https://easylivingdeli.com)
He also says he hopes to eventually offer sandwiches for pick up as well.
For now though, Janakievski says he and his wife will have more time on their hands which they will enjoy spending with their grandchildren.
They are expecting their third in a few weeks.