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Brother-sister team make Little Lilly’s Island Deli a big hit

By Staff | Mar 4, 2020

Siblings Robin Lilly and Matt Romejko run Little Lilly’s Island Deli together. PAULETTE LeBLANC

In 2008, Robin Lilly took over the island’s only deli. She says her brother, Matt Romejko, had been thinking of leaving Pennsyl-vania for years before coming down. She’d told him when he was ready to make the move she would have a job for him. Romejko proposed to his then-girlfriend and they came to Florida together, where he began working with his sister.

“I didn’t cater the wedding, but I did marry them,” said Lilly, who was a wedding planner before she bought the deli. “I did hundreds of weddings. I worked in a banquet hall and thought I might as well become a notary.”

The eight-year age difference between the siblings made it difficult to predict what a working relationship might look like, since Romejko was only 10 years old when Lilly moved out of the house. Having spent almost no time together as adults, they each took a gamble on the situation being one that was operable.

“The thing about Matt,” said Lilly, “is that we’re a lot alike. We have many similarities that made it an easy transition. He’s just like me and he’s family. I trust him completely.”

Lilly said they often work side by side all morning without speaking a word to one another, but that it’s a comfortable silence. She confesses Romejko is likely the only sibling she has that she could work with successfully, adding that his personality has taken a considerable weight off of her. While the ability to represent the business with a light heart and a smile is not in everyone’s capacity, Lilly finds herself relieved that it seems to be one of her brother’s greatest strengths.

Robin Lilly and Matt Romejko help a customer at Little Lilly’s Island Deli at 10700 Stringfellow Road, #20, Bokeelia. PAULETTE LeBLANC

“Sometimes someone hasn’t been here for months,” said Lilly, “and then they come back and it’s a bit of pressure to remember everything about everyone – although I want to, but Matt is great at that.”

Though a working relationship between siblings will often change the dynamic, in Lilly’s case she said it’s only been enhanced by the fact that her brother has become one of her best friends, saying they spend much time together even when they’re not working. Having moved away to begin her life at 18, Lilly had gotten used to spending time without family. Now with a brother and sister-in-law to share important moments, Lilly has gained much more than a working partner, as she says, things such as holidays have taken on a whole new meaning.

Twelve years ago when she purchased the deli, Lilly said she had a 5-year plan. Now that Little Lilly’s has found a place in the hearts, and mouths, of islanders, she said she would like to make it a bit more of a market than a deli, as she’s really enjoyed preparing the grab-and-go meals, which have become a great success.

“The creative side of this business, such as the catering, has become very enticing to me,” said Lilly. “I can see changing it a little, but it kind of works the way it is.”

Lilly said the time has come and gone very quickly since her original 5-year plan. She is amazed whenever a customer comes in, who she watched throughout a pregnancy, with the child now old enough to order for themselves. She said the island is a fantastic place to work and live, as she can ride her bike to work, bypassing the need to fight traffic. Mostly though, Lilly simply loves this island, adding that her work has become both rewarding and easy.

“I want people to know that I appreciate them as much as they appreciate me,” said Lilly. “If it wasn’t for the people on this island, I couldn’t do it. When I first opened the deli I was the new kid on the block, and I remember thinking we’re never going to make it because we changed things. I didn’t know if we were going to be accepted and we were, with open arms … and still are after all these years. A lot of people on this island are on a budget – people don’t have to spend their money here so we try to make it a happy place to come. We want them to leave here happy and full.”

Call 239-282-9264 for information.