A greeting and hug from Sally Ballas is as popular with the customers as the Rueben sandwich on the menu of the Carrollwood Café & Deli.
For 14 years, Sally and her husband, Peter, have served up homemade specialties at the New York-style diner tucked in a strip center along North Dale Mabry Highway.
When the pair moved from Pennsylvania, they decided to open a place where they could offer up fresh soups and sandwiches with a bit of hospitality on the side.
But now, the pastrami-making pair has decided to hang up their aprons for retirement. They recently sold the deli to Mike Augiatis, who promises to change nothing.
"We're just ready for retirement," Sally said. "Running this place is like caring for a child that never grows up."
At a place that boasts curing its own meats, baking the bread on site and making fresh soups daily, Peter was ready to take some time off after 14 years.
"That's 752 Saturdays I have worked," he said. "I've loved doing this, but you get to a point where you want to slow down and take a vacation."
The idea of walking into the café and not seeing the couple greet people with their regular gab has some customers sad. Casey Lambert has been visiting the deli weekly for lunch for the past 10 years.
"The food is amazing and the service is incredible," he said. "I hope the new owner can carry on the quality."
It's that dedication to quality that has kept the deli in business, Peter said. He's watched other restaurants come and go on the strip that is notorious for small business failures in a sea of chain restaurants.
"People see the traffic Dale Mabry gets and they want a piece," Peter said. "But the competition is fierce."
Sally and Peter spent months trying to find the right person to take over the business.
"Some people wanted to come in and change everything and we didn't want that," Sally said.
Augiatis, who previously ran a landscaping company, promises to uphold the quality and personal service that has made the deli a success. He will train with the Sally and Peter until the end of the year.
"What's great about me is that I've never run a restaurant. So I'm a blank slate," he said. "These two have been a huge success. So why would I mess with that?"