On Wednesday, Sunrise Deli, a popular Middle Eastern eatery known for its falafel, closed its Berkeley outpost at 2456 Bancroft Way, just across from the Cal campus. The family-owned business has two remaining locations in San Francisco and a food truck that services events across the Bay Area. A letter was posted at the restaurant by owner Linda Erakat:
“To our loyal customers and friends,
After many years in business, I write this letter to inform you we will be closing this location. Thank you for the many years of allowing us to be part of your campus community. From the moment we opened this location, we felt right at home. Though I had many roots in the area, I was in fact new to California and did not know where my future would take me. Almost 15 years later and 3 grandchildren older, I feel this is the best time to say goodbye. As a minority woman it’s very rare to go out on your own terms, but I am proud to say that I have. On behalf of Olga, Mohammad and the many employees that put tireless hours of work trying to make the falafel just right, Thank you.”
The note goes on to say that Erakat’s husband and son will continue running the two Sunrise Delis in San Francisco, the original location at 2115 Irving St. in the Sunset District and 54 Second St. in the Financial District. Sunrise Deli will also continue offering catering services throughout the East Bay.
Nosh spoke on the phone with Erakat’s husband, Khaldoun Ramadan, who was preparing for the day at Sunrise’s Irving Street location. He said his wife, the main family member running the Berkeley location, made the difficult decision to close it to spend more time with her three grandchildren as she recovers from breast cancer surgery.
“Unfortunately, she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Ramadan said. “Luckily, she caught it in the early stage; she did the surgery. We decided it’s enough for her. She worked for so many years to support the family, and it’s now time to retire and take care of her grandchildren. She loves them. They are the only things she loves more than Sunrise.”
Ramadan and Erakat purchased the Irving Street location of Sunrise Deli 17 years ago (it was opened in 1984 by a different owner), expanded to Berkeley four years later, then opened the location on Second Street in 2009. There were two other locations, another in the Financial District and one on Haight Street, but the family sold those to concentrate on the three brick-and-mortar eateries and the food truck.
For about a year, Berkeley’s Sunrise Deli was also run by a different owner. Mohammad Zeidieh franchised the business from Ramadan and Erakat, but the family took over again when Zeidieh had to return to the Middle East because of a death in the family. Erakat was once again at the shop, doing about 80 -90% of the work.
“We don’t like to open a location and not go there every day,” Ramadan said. “Because this is food! We have to be there. This is the way we run our locations.”
But after Erakat was diagnosed with breast cancer, the family decided it just wasn’t possible to keep the business going. “We cannot run it from San Francisco,” Ramadan said.
Sunrise Deli still offers catering across the East Bay. Call (415) 664-8210 for orders. The Sunrise Deli food truck appears at Oakland’s First Friday and other festival and events around the Bay Area.