After searching for a Kenai location for the past three years, Odie’s Deli opened for business Monday with a second location in the Kenai Airport.
The local sandwich shop, which has been in business on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna for more than eight years, now occupies the former PJ’s Diner space in the west corner of the airport terminal.
Kenai Airport Manager Mary Bondurant said the lease for PJ’s Diner ended on Dec. 31 and the city reached out to local business owners to fill the vacancy.
Odie’s Deli submitted the only bid. The annual lease is for $38,400 and runs through 2018.
Bondurant said the city increased the minimum bid slightly after taking into consideration that utilities are included and airport maintenance provides snow removal for parking. She said Odie’s would be a great tenant for not only travelers but airport employees as well.
“They have great food and have developed a great reputation in the community,” Bondurant said.
Odie’s Deli owner Melodie Symington said for years customers have been asking when they would expand to Kenai, but they could not find the right place. While the new site is different from where she thought they would go, she said the potential to reach many new customers in the airport is an exciting prospect.
“We may not be on the main highway, but (in the airport location) will bring in hungry travelers,” she said. “When the city asked us to put in a proposal it just seemed like a good opportunity.”
Odie’s was originally set to open on Jan. 13 but Symington said they delayed the grand opening a week while waiting for the tables, chairs and some kitchen equipment. The new site is smaller than the Soldotna place by about 20 chairs, and the renovation required a few changes — painting, a new countertop and new carpet for the dining area.
Symington recently hired 10 new employees between both restaurants. She said some would work both places but mainly each location will have the same staff.
Symington said the soft opening on Sunday saw a few customers. However, a steady stream of customers flowed through the eatery during the lunch rush Monday, similar to what they would see at the original location.
Sally Tachick from Soldotna came in for a sandwich with her husband Steve before she boarded a flight to Anchorage. Tachick said they regularly eat at the Soldotna location and were happy to see the deli expand to the airport.
Kenai residents Dan and Nita Young stopped in for lunch and sat down at a window table with a view of the planes landing on the runway. Nita Young said they liked coming to PJ’s restaurant for the food and the outside entertainment and look forward to continuing their patronage at Odies’s.
“They have always had great food and big sandwiches,” Young said. “I’m glad they finally branched out here. They should do really well.”
Symington said the menu is the same with fresh homemade bread made from scratch daily. The house favorites are the Chipotle Panini with turkey and bacon, the Mel’s Club and a chicken cashew salad sandwich. Odie’s Deli lists the soup of the day on their Facebook page and serves expresso coffee. For hungry soup and sandwich lovers with a short lunch break, customers can call to place their order to go.
Kenai Odie’s Deli number is 907 335-2540.