41 years in food! It all started at One Up Coney Island in Tally Hall on Orchard Lake Road in 1980. A special place with the most iconic 80s décor — bright yellow and green. Your menu included Bagel Dogs, Cottage Fries, Italian Sausages and Coney Dog Specials. Tally Hall was a first-of-its-kind food court. Lauren was nicknamed the "Tally Hall Baby" as she visited often as a newborn and was beloved by the employees of all the eateries.
In 1989, you moved to Farmington Hills but were having a hard time coming up with a name for your restaurant. On the drive over to sign your lease, Uptown Girl by Billy Joel came on the radio and Uptown Deli was created right then and there. It’s here where you had your sit-down deli and created your famous roll-up sandwiches and lavash pocket salads — to name a few menu favorites. As 6- and 8-year-old girls, though, our favorite was your Colombo frozen yogurt machine!
Uptown Deli holds special memories for Lauren and me. Our first jobs, where Papa Hartz was often found having lunch with friends, Papa Dick doing deliveries, and so much more. Lauren and I could be found answering phones, ringing up orders, packing the Uptown Van for catering jobs, and of course, preparing food. You made it fun; and it was good thing we knew the boss, as we were often late for work, could be found in the back eating the profit, or locking our cousins Matt and Brandon in the walk-in fridge.
Your last move, in 2004, was Uptown Catering in Keego Harbor. This location will hold a special place in the hearts of your grandkids. Last week, they all helped you prepare for one last Christmas season — greeting customers, packing up orders, making pizza and doughnuts with the leftover dough. Your grandson Grant didn’t take the news of your retirement well and insisted that, if he were older, he’d most definitely take over operations.
Your typical work week was seven days. You rarely turned down a job or an order, even if it meant driving across town to multiple locations, getting up at 4:00 in the morning to prepare for a busy day or staying late into the evening to fill holiday orders. Inevitably, there were always those phone calls asking to place a last-minute order. More often than not, the caller would be sure to mention, "Well, I know Gary" or "Gary's my cousin." Even though we were told "we aren’t taking any more orders," you had the hardest time turning anyone away. The caller would be placed on hold and you’d pick up the line and confirm their order. Your employees would let out a sigh as you’d file yet another ticket stub in the overflowing Upcoming Orders pile.
You've catered thousands of graduation parties, holiday events, bar and bat mitzvahs, baptisms, engagements, weddings, birthdays, office parties, dinner parties, St. John senior lunches, funerals, and every happy or sad occasion in between. You’ve been catering the Armenia Fest for years now — a huge undertaking that you proudly took on. A true labor of love.
Looking back, we know the most fulfilling job of all was the Armenian food you made. Most famously, your lahmajoon and boereg, but also choreg, katah, kufta, sarma, tass kebob, shish kabob and more. Your lahmajoon recipe was special, as it was handed down from your mom. All others created and perfected by you. It made your soul happy to provide this food for the Armenian community in Michigan and beyond. Your food tastes like home to so many people!
If we ever came across another Armenian in town who we didn't know, we could just mention our maiden name and almost everyone would say, "Are you Gary Reizian's daughter?" And we would proudly nod our heads. Everyone knows our dad! You recently joined Facebook and quickly amassed 668 friends. Your oldest grandchild kind of thinks you’re famous.
Over the decades, you have employed so many great people, friends, and family members. There was a special bond between all your longtime workers, many of whom have been with you from the beginning. Debbie, Dee, Lydia and the Snowden Family — thank you for being a huge part of the success.
A special shout out to Jamie Snowden – dad’s right hand (wo)man! Most people who know of Uptown, know and love Jamie. We cannot thank Jamie enough for her loyalty, dedication and hard work over the decades. We wish her well in retirement!
We know this is an emotional step for you, dad — not to make another roll-up sandwich, roll another lahmajoon dough ball or fold another cheese boereg. But let's save our tears because now you will finally have time for you — and mom … and us … and five grandkids who adore you. They’ll cherish their time with you as a full-time papa. And if you’re not here with us, we hope you’re in Naples on the golf course. Your hard work has paid off and, as they say, all good things must come to an end. A bittersweet end of a legendary era.
We couldn’t help but notice your trusty 30+year-old lahmajoon machine currently sitting in your laundry room. So, is this really the end, dad? Only time will tell. We hope you’ll do what makes your heart happy — at your own pace.
We love you Dad, and are so proud of you!
Lauren & Nikki
P.S. To all our customers, we thank you for loving and placing your trust in our dad and Uptown! Like yours, our freezers and countless others feel empty today.