Big Deli Energy: How This Los Angeles Sandwich Shop Became Pete Davidson’s Favorite Brand
Last fall, rumors about Pete Davidson’s new romance started circulating. The blurry photos have sparked naughty theories. Anonymous sources and anonymous friends provided essential information to the gossip columnists. But it wasn’t until one night in mid-November last year, when Pete Davidson emerged from Los Angeles celebrity haunt Giorgio Baldi, hand in hand with Kim Kardashian, that the news broke. . Yes, the rumors were true: Pete Davidson loves the products of Los Angeles sandwich shop Uncle Paulie’s.
“It was like the biggest picture in the world that day,” Uncle Paulie co-founder Paul James told me. He’s not quite exaggerating. Onlookers immediately identified a hickey on Davidson’s neck, and for the next few days the media focused on every detail of the photo. Davidson’s mud-colored hat with cursive writing spelling out “Uncle Paulie,” meanwhile, dragged James into the vortex. “We were getting gossip and people were DMing us like, ‘Tell us more!'” he said. James was as much in the dark about the photo as everyone else, but the image sent something bigger into motion. With the help of Pete Davidson, Uncle Paulie’s has grown from a friendly sub-store selling t-shirts to a real streetwear brand that is always out of stock.
James opened Uncle Paulie’s on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles in 2017, hoping to recreate the sandwich shops he frequented growing up in Queens, New York. In LA, he said, your coffee order doesn’t even come with eye contact. He missed the experience of walking “into a deli and the guy behind the counter knows your name and they know your order and ask how your wife and kid are doing,” James said.
Carrying deli meats and sandwiches has always been Uncle Paulie’s main focus, but he always planned to sell merchandise as well. James wanted a design that reminded him of the shirts, complete with contact information, that local plumbers and tow truck operators would wear in his neighborhood as he grew up. He entrusted his co-founder, luxury streetwear and sneaker designer Jon Buscemi, with quality control. The pair worked to find a supplier who would manufacture t-shirts locally in Los Angeles. “We put a little more love into it than just printing on random whites,” James said.
From the start, James and Buscemi treated merchandising as serious business. Over the years, the sandwich shop has collaborated with Lacoste and Carhartt WIP. The result is a merchandise store that offers graphic hats and t-shirts with streetwear efficiency. “As soon as we have the hats, they are gone. At the moment I don’t have one,” James said. “I’m waiting for a shipment to arrive. They fly off the shelves. And even before Davidson, the boutique carved out an interesting role as a little slice of Italian-American for those overseas. The store frequently ships its hats to customers in Japan. Merchandising is successful enough to become “a whole other business,” says James.
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