New owners have plans for restaurant

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Beneath historic signs hanging on Merchants Delicatessen's famous brick walls, owner Bob Austin wipes off tables Saturday morning. Effective Jan. 1, Tom Maccarone takes over as owner of Merchants and plans so far include a name change to Olive.

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Reflections of Main Street bounce from the front door of Merchants Delicatessen as owner Bob Austin serves some of his last customers from behind the pastry case. Austin recently sold the restaurant to Tom Maccarone of T. Maccarone's.

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Merchants Delicatessen owner Bob Austin toasts just inside the front door of the Walla Walla icon. Merchants was sold to Tom Maccarone with the change of ownership effective Jan. 1.

WALLA WALLA -- Tom Maccarone and Jake Crenshaw plan to continue many of the services at Merchants Ltd. when they take over in January. Particularly the food service.

But some of the traditions won't be in the cards.

The ordering system is one of them. No longer will customers be given a playing card when they place their orders, the two said. A new system for picking up orders will be implemented.

Also changing: the interior. Maccarone said the earthy tones of T. Maccarone's will be painted inside the new Olive Marketplace and Cafe to build continuity between the two businesses.

T. Maccarone's will end its existing lunch service around the second week of January before it's moved to Olive, where the marketplace will be a tribute to T. Maccarone's fresh meats, seafood, housemade pastas, sauces, cured meats and an assortment of fresh-baked breads and pastries.

The retail selection will be rounded out by a rotating variety of wine, dry goods and culinary merchandise, according to the announcement on the ownership change.

Maccarone said he feels a connection Merchants. Around the time the deli opened his family was joining the restaurant scene. In 1976, Maccarone's parents, Tom Sr. and Francis Maccarone, opened Main Street deli "That's Italian."

He and Crenshaw see Olive as a continuation of the legacies built downtown with an expanded menu including flatbread pizzas and new sandwiches.

"We want to retain the customers in the cafe," Crenshaw said. "But we also want to emphasize the market end and retail side."

He and Maccarone said they haven't yet determined how to meld the staffs at both businesses. T. Maccarone's has a pastry chef heading that restaurant's bread program. That person will likely have a role in baking at Olive.

Maccarone, who plans to keep his primary focus at his original restaurant while Crenshaw heads things up at Olive, said the new business venture will operate seven days a week.

Olive will operate 7 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily with breakfast, 7-11 a.m. The cafe menu will be available 11 a.m.-closing.

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