Tom Krupa thought his wife, Michelle, was joking when she first said she wanted to run a deli.
When he asked if she had any experience with running a business, she replied “none, but I ran a household for 33 years; it can’t be much different.”
“My wife always wanted to do something in the business world and she said this would be a great opportunity,” Tom, 53, of Bayport, said. “She’s the main owner, I’m just the supportive husband.”
Following her dream, the couple took over the former Village Bistro at 124 S. Country Rd in Bellport Village and opened Shelby’s Kitchen last month.
The couple, married three years, lives in Bayport, but Tom said he’s long had close connections in Bellport.
“It’s very homey,” he said. “This is Bedford Falls,” the fictional town from It’s a Wonderful Life.
“It’s a nice little quant quiet community and it hasn’t really been touched by time,” he said.
The shop has even been receiving holiday presents, including an Ozzy Osbourne figure that keeps a Santa Claus company on the deli counter.
Milton, Michelle’s seeing eye dog, has garnered his share of popularity as well.
Depending on who’s asked, Tom said, the name “Shelby’s Deli” came from one of two things.
“Originally the name ‘Shelby’ was because [Michelle] is deaf and she could only hear certain things with her hearing aids,” he said. “Her maiden name began with a ‘b.’ So all she heard was ‘Shelby.'”
“Now if you ask my brother how did we name the store, it’s after the Shelby Mustang,” he added. “I don’t have an opinion, I’m just the supportive brother and husband.”
Great grandmas and guitars
Shelby’s shelves are loaded with fresh baked goods like cherry, apple and coconut custard pies and chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies — all made from scratch.
“The cookie recipe we have was from my great grandmother,” Tom said. “She always swore to me, ‘If you ever give this [recipe] out I will haunt you.'”
They also offer plenty of signature sandwiches like the pastrami laden New Yorker and the Why Me, a garlic hero with roast beef and mozzarella cheese.
Tom’s brother Jay created the shop’s most popular sandwich, the 5150, a nod to late guitar legend Eddie Van Halen.
The guitarist named his home studio, and later a Van Halen album, after the California police code to lock in a psychiatric institution.
The 5150 at Shelby’s is a garlic hero with a chicken cutlet, cheddar, bacon and barbecue sauce.
“They claim it to be criminally insane,” Tom said. “It’s not my cup of tea, but people like it.”
Top: Tom and Michelle Krupa at Shelby’s Kitchen.