NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> Becky’s Newtown Deli, a borough breakfast and lunch staple for more than 30 years, closed its doors on Friday, prompting an outpouring of love and support on social media for its owner.
After more than three decades in business, Becky Betz put away the condiments, mopped the floors and turned out the lights at her South State Street shop for the last time.
“I’ll be taking a little time for myself, then who knows where I'll pop up next,” said Betz.
For business and health reasons, Betz made the decision a year and a half ago to sell or close the deli, which has been feeding Newtown residents and visitors for generations, first as Dick’s and then as Becky’s.
“There are so many places to eat around here now. The Village at Newtown is like a food court,” said Betz. “What I don’t like about it is that it’s all chains. Look at Yardley. How are they able to attract all those little independent restaurants? That’s how you do it. I might still be around if I was in a town like that.”
Betz began working at Dick’s Deli in Newtown in 1979. She managed the business for most of the 1980s, and in 1990, she and her husband, Harry, purchased the business and changed the name to Becky’s Newtown Deli.
Through the years, Becky built the business into a thriving hometown deli where customers knew they’d be greeted by a warm smile, the latest town gossip and a delicious hoagie, sandwich or wrap.
Her menu included such favorites as the Liberty Street (tuna melt), named after the street where she once lived; the Centre Avenue (Honey BBQ Chicken Breast); the Chancellor Street (Smoked Turkey Breast); and the Congress Street (Cuban Sandwich).
So how many sandwiches has she made over the years?
“More than I care to count,” said Betz.
And her favorite?
“If you had to pin me down it would be our Italian hoagie. That’s always been my go to.”
Among her customers, the chicken salad BLT was always popular along with her wraps and her specialty sandwiches.
“But this past week everyone and their mother wanted my hoagies for some reason,” said Betz. “But that’s not something I’ve been selling much of. Some days I’ll sell one. They used to be very popular. Now everyone wants sandwiches with coleslaw on them. We’ve been selling a lot of them.”
While she won’t miss the stress of running a business in an increasingly competitive market, Betz said she’ll very much miss her loyal customers who have kept her going through the years.
Betz often joked that she started her customer base in the womb because “their moms came in when they were pregnant and then they were born and when they were old enough to start eating hoagies I would be there to make them.
“It has been my pleasure to watch you grow up, or watch your kids grow up, and share your happy and sad times,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me through the years and for those who have just discovered me. Darn it, you were late to the party,” she said.
Among her adoring fans is Justin Pugh, an offensive guard for the Arizona Cardinals who has been ordering hoagies from Becky’s for years. “I’ve seen him literally grow up,” she said. “And he has mentioned me in a few interviews.
While building a loyal customer base, Becky also got involved in the community, volunteering her time with the local business associations, supporting the town’s firefighters and helping to decorate the street for the holiday season.
Betz also used her talent as a former Bucks County Courier Times reporter to write press releases promoting events taking place in the town’s business district.
Looking back over the years, Betz said one of the most exciting times was when filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan turned South State Street into a Hollywood set for the filming of the movie, “Signs,” in 2001.
Scenes from the movie starring Mel Gibson were shot at the Newtown Book and Record Exchange and at Mom Mom’s Pizza, which was then located where the Tubby Olive is today.
“That was probably my busiest day ever. It was very cool,” said Betz, who even got a wave from Gibson after reading her storefront sign.
Another memorable day was when Newtown hosted the Bucks County Fireman’s Parade in 1984 in celebration of the town’s Tricentennial.
“That was really amazing,” said Betz.
“It was so much fun. I did real good business that day. Once we locked the doors we walked up to the industrial commons for the after the parade party. Oh my God, what a blast that was. I still have the mugs and coffee cups.”
As Betz wrapped up her last day on the job, one of her longtime customers stopped by to wish Becky well.
“I’m sorry to hear,” he says. “I just saw it on my Facebook today.”
“That’s life. Everything changes,” she says. “I’m going to go to work someplace else. Keep an eye on my Facebook pages,” says Becky.
“If you start making sandwiches somewhere else let us know,” he says. “I hope people have been showering you with love because you deserve it.”
And they have.
More than 150 have commented on Becky’s Facebook page, all of them wishing her well and sharing their memories of the longtime South State Street deli.