The white house has been sitting on the corner of Lee Street and Wilson Avenue for 92 years. A red wall and two white-framed windows break up the house’s siding. It blends in with the surrounding East Campus homes, save for the pitched-roof sign reading “LSD” for Lee Street Deli. Ring the doorbell next to the window, and there’s co-owner Nicole Muirhead ready to take your order.
Nicole and her husband, Will Muirhead, had both logged years of service in the food industry when they bought the deli in February 2015 from David Jatho. Jatho had been one in a long line of owners throughout the deli’s ten decades; each brought their own flair.
The Muirheads were excited about the deli’s history and the saw untapped potential in it.
Opened in 1927, the Lee Street Shop began as a local corner grocery store. Sandwiches were only sold as secondary items. Over the years, it gradually shifted away from selling household items and toward being an eatery in its own right. The shop had a reputation as a staple in the community, though not one that necessarily made a profit.
“When we first came in, it was pretty much a failing business,” Nicole Muirhead says. At the time, the set menu only offered cold cut sandwiches cooked on a panini press or in a microwave. “We needed it to be a money maker; we have four kids.”
The Muirheads stuck with the existing psychedelic references, sprinkling them throughout the eatery even as they began to make updates and upgrades. They extended the deli’s weekend hours and installed a new grill. They added a “build-your-own element” to the menu with a list of “freebies” that can be added to any dish.
In January, the owners obtained a license to sell packaged alcohol. They even carry 12-packs of White Claw hard seltzers.
Tim Waid has been visiting Lee Street Deli since he was a child in the late 1960s. Waid, chairman of the East Campus Traditional Neighborhood Association, says the Muirheads are keeping the spirit of this old neighborhood gem alive. The business is returning to its corner store roots by selling cigarettes, cigarillo wraps and Juul pods. And of course, they’re still selling the classic juicy burger: LSD’s version of a sloppy joe.
One thing that has definitely changed is the deli’s growing popularity. With business on an upswing at the start of the school year, it became clear that the space needed a reconfiguration. After being outside-dining-only for a couple of weeks, the interior is now reopened with a new layout. For crowd control purposes, the owners will close it off on especially busy days, such as football Saturdays, Muirhead says.
MU senior and East Campus resident Alex Hackworth says he appreciates the indoor option. “I really value community, and I think being inside, watching your food get made, being able to interact with other college students whenever you’re there is part of the community experience,” Hackworth says.
“Traditions are modified, [but] they never go away; it’s still the original house, the original location, the original name,” Waid says. “It’s a great symbol of the East Campus lifestyle.”