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Alan Canter, Owner Of Famous Family Deli, Dead At 82

HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA)  -- The Canter family -- longtime proprietors of one of Los Angeles' most famous eateries -- announced Friday evening that family patriarch and "beloved" owner Alan Canter has died.

Canter was 82.

The family wrote,  "He kept his family legacy alive and built an LA landmark. He worked 18 hour days, and took pride in hand-cutting each fruit cup. He taught his children how to run this business just as his father taught him. We are deeply saddened by this loss."

In 1999, the LA Times referred to the deli as "the soul of Fairfax Avenue." In 2017, the LA Daily News was no less effusive calling it "LA's kibitz spot for 75 years." In 2010, LA Magazine said Canter's served LA's favorite sandwiches.

Alan Canter's father and seven uncles founded the original Canter's Deli in 1931 in Boyle Heights.

alan canter
(credit: Gina Canter/the Canter Family)

On Saturday evening, KCAL9's Laurie Perez sat down with Al's son Marc. He shared the story of his father and painted a portrait of a man for whom family and work was everything.

He tod her "Papa Alan" was surrounded by family when he passed Friday.

"My dad was a face that was here every single day," Marc says, "never went on vacation."

Almost everything served at Canter's is made per his dad's design. From the pickles and the bread to the iconic fruit cups he took so much pride in.

"He picked the fruit himself," Marc says, "it the truck would come and didn't have exactly the kind of ripe produce that he liked, send back the truck, and he'd go looking down the street and buy from the little fruit stands that were here 'til the fruit truck would come back with better fruit."

In the deli's storied history, more than a few famous have dropped in -- many became regulars. And Marc said his father didn't give celebrities special treatment, he didn't bat an eye.

"Elvis would come here, you know members of the Doors, in the 60s all the, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, but he didn't care. He was too busy working. Now, this was before my time, but he did remember Marilyn Monroe coming and she used to sit in the closest booth to the bathroom so she could go check her make-up."

Al Canter was a tireless presence at the restaurant. He'd fix the elevators, the refrigerators, the oven then bought in the 40s is working to this day. Marc says his father was the guy who would give loans never expecting to be repaid. He worked 18 hour shifts and worked hard.

He died Friday but his son says he truly lives on in the place he loved.

"Right here. I have him right here," Marc says, "It started this morning, I actually feel him here."

Canter's Deli is located at 419 N. Fairfax Avenue.

The family will hold a memorial, Monday, January 28, at 12:30  at Mount Sinai Memorial Park (5950 Forest Lawn Drive, 90068).

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