In a town that prizes its outsize characters, few came bigger than Marc Katz, the face of the deli and bar of the same name for 31 years.
Now, after a few years in Mineola, N.Y. — and at least one decidedly brutal winter — Katz is close to moving back to Austin, a little more than three years after he locked the door to his 24-hour deli and bar at Sixth and Rio Grande streets for the first and last time.
"I was numb,” he said last week during a monthlong visit. “I was struggling for years. It’s like a mourning process.”
“Family business” is often a fine way to bring ruin to both family and business, and so it was for Katz, whose failures were not infrequent and public.
His former brother-in-law, Abe Zimmerman, was a founding partner but never got the recognition the gregarious Katz did. He was involved in litigation with his son, Barry, in part over an expansion to Houston. Wives came and went. He became addicted to narcotics but says he has been recovering since 1991. There were bankruptcies and failed runs for mayor and lieutenant governor. Katz went back to selling cars — the job he had when he moved from New York in 1977.
Katz eventually moved to the village of Mineola, in Nassau County on Long Island, and is a consultant at Shakers, a pub and restaurant there. He initially thought he’d be the chef there but a brief audition proved he was too old for that. Since October he’s also worked for Harvard Risk Management, which, among other things, protects its customers from identity theft.
But a nasty winter and the welcome he’s received from friends here has him actively looking to come back. He’s got feelers out. He’s talking with a nightclub. Maybe he could do some public relations work, or run or consult on another restaurant.
But reboot Katz’s? No way.
“Oh, God, no,” he said when asked about that possibility. “I don’t have the energy to do that again.”
He does like the energy he sees in Austin.
“It’s much more cosmopolitan,” he said. “It’s a completely different town. The nightlife looks younger, if that’s possible. Or I’m older. The cops look to me like they’re in the sixth grade.”
Katz says his finances remain poor.
“I have some income but I’m broke. Another fine mess,” he said. “But I’m not concerned. People are reaching out to me. The word that I’m here got out so fast.”
So for now he’s staying with friends and exploring his options in a city that’s changed a great deal in his absence, and much to his liking.
“Thank God I have friends with nice homes,” Katz said. “Now I need to find a guy with a boat.”
Anything else you’d like to say?
“You know what I want to say,” he said. “I can’t help it, I gotta tell ya — Katz’s never kloses! Sixth and Rio Grande.”