Ted Levitt freely admits he has no work-life balance, but that’s mostly because, as the second-generation owner of Chick and Ruth’s Delly in Annapolis, he has never needed one. For as long as he can remember, work and family have always been inextricably intertwined.
It all started a half-century ago, in the summer of 1965, when his parents, Chick and Ruth Levitt, moved from Baltimore to Annapolis to open an eatery on Main Street. Ted, then just 8 years old, would stand on a milk crate in the back and slice meat. By the time he was 11, he was working the grill with his mom while his dad manned the register. Even then, he knew the business was his future. “All I wanted to do is work with my dad,” says Levitt, who, at age 58, continues to work six days a week. “I didn’t know how much work it was, but it didn’t matter because I already loved being here.”
He isn’t the only one. Chick and Ruth’s has secured its spot in Annapolis’ cultural firmament with its from-scratch soups, sandwiches, platters, and pies—not to mention its unpretentious, friendly vibe. “People want an experience. It’s like when you go into Cheers,” says Levitt, who spent two years at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America before returning to assume greater responsibility as his parents’ health declined. (His mother died in 1986; his father in 1995.)
In fact, so unifying is the humble deli’s appeal that every Maryland governor since Marvin Mandel has come in for breakfast the morning after their inauguration, prompting his parents to begin the tradition of naming menu items after Maryland politicos. (The Hogan’s Hero, named for Gov. Larry Hogan, is a cheese steak with American cheese and grilled onions.)
Joined in work and life by his wife Beth since 1981, Levitt sees no end in sight, even though the couple’s two grown children, Scott and Lauren, are pursing other careers. He says: “As long as I’m working, I’ll be here.”