Some places come and go, and we hardly notice. Others are around so long they weave themselves into our lives. They comfort us like a warm blanket.
And when they go, we feel like a piece of home is lost.
Many of us will feel that way when Brandywine's Delicatessen in Winter Park shuts its doors after 40 years — eons in restaurant years — on April 28.
Where else will we find sandwiches stacked with turkey carved straight from a bird roasted each morning in the deli's oven? And there's no replacement for the Mixed Delight, the lunchtime perfection that combines a trio of egg-salad and tuna-salad finger sandwiches with fresh fruit and cream-cheese-slathered date-nut bread.
"We really don't have anything else like it," said Hattie Wolfe, who owned Hattie's, a now-closed clothing shop a few blocks down Park Avenue from Brandywine's. "It's really been an institution."
That's the highest compliment for any retail establishment. An institution isn't forgotten. It's deep in memories and hearts.
And that's the case for me with Brandywine's. I started eating there with my mother and grandmother when I was just a toddler. Back then I ordered the peanut butter and jelly. It's still on the menu for my kids today, at least, for a couple of more weeks.
And because the deli is quick, reasonably priced (nothing on the menu costs more than $7.40) and convenient, it's been part of some of my best days.
My bridesmaids and I ate takeout from there on my wedding day.
Johnny Frankenberger has heard plenty of stories like that since announcing last month that he couldn't reach a new lease agreement with his landlord.
"It's very emotional to see the reactions of some people," he said. "It was the busiest month in the history of Brandywine's."
The lunch line has been out the door for the final corned-beef and pastrami sandwiches and heaping helpings of potato or macaroni salad (the secret is Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise).
Frankenberger was just 9 when his parents, Jack and Joan, opened Brandywine's (originally as a takeout deli and grocery) in 1972 across from St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.
He has grown up there, along with his six brothers and sisters, and bought the restaurant from his parents about 10 years ago.
He says he can't imagine doing anything other than running a restaurant and may do it again one day.
But Brandywine's will join the Yum Yum Shoppe, Gary's Duck Inn, Townsend's Fish House, Johnson's Diner and, of course, Ronnie's in restaurant heaven.
I asked readers last week which old-time places they miss the most, and I was flooded with responses. The old Church Street Station and nickel-beer night. The Infinite Mushroom, Orlando's original head shop. Peaches (remember when people bought albums and cassettes?). Toy Parade in College Park.
I didn't have to ask to know that Ronnie's is one of the most storied of Orlando institutions. It was the place where the staff considered rudeness a virtue. Rules strictly rationed pats of butter per customer.
"They always acted like they were doing you huge, great big favor," said Irene Fisher, a nurse in Altamonte Springs who grew up going to Ronnie's and often ate there with her husband. "But everybody continued to go and loved it there."
I asked folks why they missed these places so much. And the answers were invariably the same.
They had to do with family, friends and remembering what now seems like a long-lost time.
"We would always go for my father's birthday and pick out a chocolate cake," Fisher said of Ronnie's. "It was just a place where you would mark the milestones of your family."
When we talk about institutions, we're really talking about the times in our lives that led us to them. Moments that we try to recapture.
"We all look back at a place in our lives when things were perfect, or at least we thought they were," said Ellen Prague, who has owned The Paper Shop for 30 years on the same block as Brandywine's.
Brandywine's, she said, is the first place her daughter and grandchildren always want to go when they visit.
No doubt she feels a connection there to her childhood, as I do.
And three weeks from now, we'll be left to reminiscing.
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