Restaurant serves late night community

Kayla Wright, Reporter

“Never own a restaurant.”

Those four words spoken by Steve Sterling’s entrepreneurship professor lit a fire inside the Bowling Green resident to open Sterling’s Amish Deli.

“I hate when people tell me what not to do because it makes me want to prove them wrong,” Sterling said.

As it turns out, Sterling has wanted to start a restaurant since he was a student at BGSU.

“It’s hectic trying to grab food after a night out,” BGSU student Jailyn Lofton said. “Everyone pretty much goes to the same places and the lines are extremely long.”

So Sterling brought his hot dog stand idea to the city of Bowling Green. But rules and regulations put his dream out of reach.

“There are a lot of rules. You have to be 180 feet off the sidewalk and little things like that,” said Sterling.

It was then that Sterling took an entrepreneurship class and heard that quote. Not only did that motivate Sterling, but he also took the opportunity to learn from his professors’ mistakes.

“He had opened Easy Street Cafe, he ended up hating it and selling it,” Sterling said. “That really motivated me to take down notes about all the ways he went wrong and lost money. I thought to myself, “I could do this.’”

As fate would have it, a few years later, Laurie Hanway, the former owner of the restaurant that was then known as Taste of Amish, was looking for someone to buy her business. Hanway and Sterling came to an agreement, and Sterling’s Amish Deli was born.

“I started from scratch. I kept things I liked and got rid of the things I didn’t and really made it my own,” Sterling said. “I focused on efficiency and eliminating low selling items.”

Sterling settled on a menu that featured hot dogs, chicken tenders, deli sandwiches and pies.

What Sterling could not have prepared for was the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the deli to close shortly after opening. As Sterling got ready to open back up, he found that the restaurant’s pipes were leaking.

“The floors were ruined, so we started ripping them up and we found damage after damage,” Sterling said. “I was like, okay. This is the point where I cut my losses and try something else, or I dive fully into it and finish what I started.”

Sterling chose the latter.

“It was an insane choice to make, but I wanted to realize this dream I had for so long,” Sterling said.

Faced with a daunting task, Sterling relied on his experience.

“I had done smaller remodels in the kitchen, so I just doubled down,” Sterling said. “It took me five months. I did all the work with a few helping hands. I kept my employee Christian on, and he helped me everyday. Things turned out good.”

The renovation has opened the door for Sterling to realize his initial dream of serving Bowling Green’s late-night crowd.

“At night, this place turns into a giant food truck. People ordered at the window, and we got hot and ready food ready to go. I have the inside roped off so you can enter and pick up your food and leave without the cost of dealing with people who are influenced by alcohol,” Sterling said.

“I lived right across the street from the Taco Bell on East Wooster. At night when the bars let out, there would be a line of 300 or 400 people outside and I would sit in my chair and think, ‘What if all those people don’t want tacos? What if they want hot dogs? I could open my own stand right here,” said Sterling.

“I usually study late into the night, and by that time, there are not many places open to eat,” BGSU student Kristen Neate said. “It’s nice to know that now I can study late and still get some good-quality food.”

With the doors of Sterling’s Amish Deli now open, Sterling’s dream is finally being realized.

“Through it all, everything worked out. I got my dream deli. I saw a better vision for the Amish food business and now I’m fully committed to it,” Sterling said.