Show me M.E: Big G’s Deli in Winslow

Colby Echo

Photo Courtesy of Peter Brown

The mere mention of Big G’s Sandwich Shop puts a smile on nearly every local resident’s face. Located in Winslow, ME, the 32-year-old deli offers over 80 different types of sandwiches and pastas sure to satisfy any customer, and leave them returning regularly. With such a plethora of mouth-watering options to choose from, every customer is sure to find something to their liking.

Gerry “Big G” Michaud has been at the helm of this operation since 1986. While in high school, Big G washed dishes at Colby College, and was hired as a full-time cook after graduation in the late 1960s. He learned the fundamentals of food service, and quickly took this passion to the next level.

“I worked with friends at a deli in Williamstown, Mass in the late 70’s called ‘Dieo’s Deli.’ The business was sold to a Greek family when we went our separate ways,” Big G explained in a very recent email interview with the Echo. “As far as I know, it still exists as ‘Papa Charlie’s.’ I kept some ideas on paper, then decided to start a similar place here in my hometown.”

Big G returned to Waterville to launch what would become one of the most popular food spots in the area. However, the shop itself has gone through some drastic changes since first opening its doors in the mid-1980s.

“I started out in a two-story home, living upstairs and building the first Big G’s on the bottom floor — only a dozen places to sit and about 1000 square feet of total space,” Big G describes on his deli’s website. “We decorated with whatever was cheap and looked comfy. This included a TV, a huge couch, plants of all sorts, and tons of pictures. We also managed to get in a couple signs and a Coke cooler. I covered the worn and wounded floor with carpeting, installed a few used lights, and moved in an ancient five hundred pound radiator for heat.” In those early days, Big G explained in an email interview with the Echo, “Our sandwiches were all around $3.00, and the first year I made a little over $20,000 in gross sales.”

Just as he demonstrated during the opening of the business, Big G is still a strong, stable, passionate presence in the shop.

“A typical day for me really doesn’t exist,” Big G said. “With 20+ employees and our volume of business, the possibilities of problems are limitless. I have learned to be very flexible and understanding over the years. When I work, I get in at 3:00 a.m. Before we open, I make sure all our pasta sauces, pastas, soups, and gravies are made and ready for service. They are all done in-house by myself and my son Josh. After we open, I have a great time with our customers and try to keep things going in the right direction. Some days just choosing the right direction is a challenge.”

Despite the inevitable challenges of running such an unpredictable, yet extremely popular business, Big G has managed to maintain fantastic success.

“Today, we average almost three million yearly in sales and our business encompasses over six thousand square feet! We are always working on additions and changes coming that will improve our service and menu. I am 67 years old. I am going to work as hard, and as long (Hopefully!) as is needed to make sure Big G’s makes it another 30+ years with my son at the helm.”

And in case any sandwich fanatics were wondering, Big G’s taste have remained constant throughout the years of business.

“My favorite has always been the Zonker Harris with turkey added.”

Big G’s is located at 581 Benton Avenue in Winslow. ME.