A new deli has emerged in Durango under the ownership of former Fort Lewis College Cycling Team member Tom Gauthier.
Tom’s Deli opened Nov. 2 at 1806 Main Ave., and Gauthier has been surprised by the number of customers he’s had in the first week.
“Everyone likes to eat at a new dining spot. Everybody wants to try it and figure out whether it’s good or not,” he said.
Gauthier grew up around the food industry, and especially sub sandwiches. His parents are owners of multiple Subway sandwich locations in his hometown of Quebec, Canada.
Originally, Gauthier thought about following in his parent’s footsteps and trying to own a Subway location in Durango, but he decided he wanted to make a better quality sub shop geared toward locals.
“When I was in college, Durango just lacked a good sandwich spot,” Gauthier said. “We're just like, where do we go for lunch? The other spots in town were just overpriced, too crowded and had no parking.”
He said his location next to Wendy’s and J/P Tire has helped the business’ visibility in the first week.
Gauthier was part of FLC’s mountain biking team, along with Tom’s Deli manager Molly McPherson. Before opening Tom’s Deli, Gauthier raced professionally from 2016 to 2019.
“I did like Canada Cup, U.S. Cup and a couple of World Cups. But I was never able to make it to the next level like Howard Grotts or Sepp Kuss,” he said.
McPherson was planning to leave Durango until Gauthier told her he was going to open a sandwich shop. Interested in the business opportunity, she decided to stay and be a part of it.
As former athletes, the two strive to give as many healthy options as possible.
“We try to serve food that doesn’t have a lot of excess fat and sugar,” McPherson said.
Gauthier said what makes the deli unique is that they make their own bread from scratch. He also said given his education in business and McPherson’s background in education, the two make a great management team.
McPherson studied education at Fort Lewis College and uses what she learned to help train employees.
“We've worked in places with really terrible managers and were really awful food industry jobs,” McPherson said “So we’re trying to learn from our mistakes and be a place where people actually want to come into work.”
Tom’s Deli sandwiches range between $5 and $11 and offer a variety of cheap vegan and vegetarian options. Affordability is important to Gauthier because he wants to compete with Durango’s fast food market and offer food that anyone can enjoy.
The deli is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but Gauthier plans to expand hours this summer. Gauthier is also applying for a beer license and some additions will be made to the front of the deli for outdoor seating.
Gauthier said the summer months are likely going to be the busiest, and he wants the deli to be a place where people come to drink and hangout.
He said adding beer will also help with longer wait times when the deli is busy because it allows people to enjoy a drink before they get their food.
Tom’s Deli will also have an online ordering system, which should be working in a few weeks. Another future plan is to develop a delivery system in which employees will deliver sandwiches on bike, paying homage to Gauthier’s love for the sport.
The deli was originally set to open in summer 2022, but remodeling took longer than expected. Because the building was formerly a pawnshop, it needed heavy renovation to turn it into a restaurant.
Gauthier has had some community help getting the deli started. Bread owner Jeffe Morehart donated a bread slicer so the deli could cut its homemade bread.
“It goes to show, like the Durango community, how willing they are to actually show up and be there for us,” McPherson said.