Her father calls her “the human cyclone” that runs around his shop. The employees love her even though she has the propensity to “fire them” if they don’t give her pickles on demand. The customers laugh as they hand their money over to the little girl helping at the cash register of Oakley! Deli.
Eight-year-old Maggie Halley is, and probably always will be, the “Oakley Baby.”
Maggie is the daughter of Sid and Mary Halley, the current owners of the Hillsdale Street deli that’s famous around the town for its delicious French bread subs.
Oakley! Deli’s great food, along with its friendly atmosphere, draws in the customers. These qualities also lured Sid Halley to walk through the deli’s bright yellow door, almost always propped open and inviting, 12 years ago.
He drove by plenty of times on his morning commute — from his home near Hillsdale College’s sports complex to the hospital where he worked as a sports trainer — before deciding to wander in.
“One day I was really hungry and decided to try it out,” Sid Halley said. “I ended up loving the food and, from there, it became a usual stop for me.”
Sid Halley and his wife, Mary Halley, whom he was dating at the time, quickly became regulars at the deli. It became routine for them to stop by on Friday or Saturday night dates so that they could eat before going to the movies.
They both liked the small-town feel of the deli and how the owners, Keith and Rosie Reiter, chatted with all of their customers and made everyone feel welcome, Sid Halley said.
When the Halleys got married in 2002, they used Oakley! Deli to cater their rehearsal dinner.
“I don’t think we even discussed who else we could have used to cater; we both agreed Oakley’s was the best,” Sid Halley said. “It was something familiar and good, and it was a part of our story.”
After giving birth to a little girl, Maggie, on March 15, 2004, Mary Halley did not want to eat the hospital’s cafeteria food, so Sid Halley went to pick up an Oakley sub for her.
When the Reiters found out that she had the baby, they gave Sid Halley a free sub for the new mother as well as a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
“It was a really great gesture and showed how small-town it was. We try to keep that tradition going by offering what we call ‘The Baby Special,’ which is basically ‘new mommies eat free,’” said Sid Halley.
That day, Sid Halley took a picture of his wife with newborn Maggie in one arm and an Oakley! sub in the other to give to the Reiters in a thank-you card. The next time the Halleys saw that picture, it was in an Oakley’s advertisement in The Hillsdale Daily News, congratulating the Halleys on the birth of their daughter under a sales promotion for the deli.
This resulted in Maggie’s moniker around town: the “Oakley Baby.”
Shortly afterwards, Keith Reiter died from an aneurysm and the deli went up for sale.
“I went into Oakley’s for breakfast one day and asked Rosie if she was selling it, and that happened to be the day that she was putting it up on the market,” said Sid Halley.
Sid Halley and his wife went down to the real estate office that afternoon and put their offer in minutes after Oakley! Deli went on the market.
“Mary and I both agreed on buying it. It had really become a part of our lives and we didn’t want to see it change,” Sid Halley said.
From that day on, the Halleys have not changed the features that they loved so much about the deli.
“I don’t want it to be a place where everyone’s just buying a sandwich. There’s a person behind each order, and I want to get to know them,” said Sid Halley. “I just love the open and friendly setup of the shop; I think it’s how all businesses should be run.”
Sid Halley continues the Reiter’s tradition of keeping cards with the orders of their regular customers so he knows what they want when they come in.
“Some of those cards you can tell have been around for a long time,” said Oakley! employee, junior Veronica Wende.
“The regulars just come in and say their name, and we know exactly what to get them. It’s a really convenient system, especially for people who have really complicated orders,” she said.
This year, the deli is revamping its marketing techniques with the help of seniors Erin Benjamin and Katie Brunk. The Halleys hope that their efforts will result in a stronger community presence.
Benjamin and Brunk have mainly worked on the deli’s Facebook and Twitter accounts in addition to improving the shop’s menu boards.
They also helped Sid Halley put his trivia idea into motion.
“There are Trivial Pursuit cards at every table and if someone gets five answers in a row correct, then they get a free sub and their name on the Trivial Pursuit board that Katie and I put together,” Benjamin said. “No one has gotten the free sub yet.”
Sophomore JoAnna Waterman, an employee of the deli, says the employees play the game with Sid Halley when the shop is not too busy.
“[Sid] knows his trivia,” Wende said. “If you ask him any sports trivia questions, he knows it like the back of his hand. No one has beaten his record yet.”
Another marketing strategy that’s new this year was the first Oakley! sub eating contest at Hillsdale’s homecoming tailgate party.
The contest included two different heats: one for the alumni and one for current students. Each contestant had 10 minutes to try to eat a 22-inch-long party sub. For each heat, whoever ate the most in the allotted time received a $25 gift card for the deli.
None of the competitors were able to completely finish the 22 inches of sandwich, but the winners of both heats came close, with only four or five inches left, Sid Halley said.
Sid Halley said the contest went great, and he is looking forward to making it an annual event at the homecoming tailgate party.
“I’m really glad we had the contest,” Sid Halley said. “I love homecoming weekend. A lot of alumni that used to be regulars stopped by and I got to catch up with them and see how they are doing.”