PORTLAND — Anyone who’s eaten at the Full Belly Deli in Portland would remember Jack Rosen, the white-haired man sitting behind the counter shouting orders to the staff and insulting customers for ordering corned beef or pastrami on white bread.

Mr. Rosen, who died Sunday at age 76, was a fixture at the deli. He worked alongside his wife, Saralee Rosen, and his son David Rosen, who opened the business in 1987.

His son said it was his father’s dream to open a deli. He said customers expected to see him there – even those who he insulted for ordering a sandwich wrong.

“It’s inappropriate to order corned beef or pastrami on white bead,” his son said. “He wouldn’t let them do it. He told them to order a different bread and they listened.”

Mr. Rosen began working at the family deli in 1992. His son said he loved interacting with customers. He said his father mostly worked at the register and negotiated contracts with wholesalers.

“He was very firm with our wholesalers,” he said. “He made sure we got the best price. He drove them crazy, but he was just making sure we weren’t getting the short end of the stick.”

Mr. Rosen was previously a sales manager for Jayson Carron Co., where he sold health and beauty aids to businesses in Maine and throughout New England. He worked for the company for 34 years. His wife said he was a well-respected salesman, who established strong relationships with his customers.

“He could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo,” his wife said. “He was quite a salesman.”

Mr. Rosen left the company in 1992 to join his wife and son in their deli business.

The Rosens raised two children and were active in Portland’s Jewish community. For many years, he volunteered as a chef at Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh in Portland.

Mr. Rosen and his wife would have celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary on Dec. 14. She said he kept their life interesting. She recalled the night Mr. Rosen brought a sales associate from Vermont home for dinner.

“It was the one night I took off from cooking,” she said. “I cooked him some scrambled eggs and toast. Oh, Jack was wonderful. He felt sorry for the guy. It’s the kind of guy he was.”

Mr. Rosen was described by his wife on Monday as a devoted family man and the type of father, who his children could count on.

“Thank God the kids listened to me,” she said, laughing. “Oh gosh, it was interesting. Anything they wanted – he was an easy target.”

Mr. Rosen had battled pneumonia over the past few weeks. His wife said the antibiotics didn’t work. She made another doctor’s appointment for him, but he told her to cancel it.

“He was too stubborn to go to the doctor’s,” his wife said. He refused to go. That did him in. Thank God he didn’t suffer. They tried everything to bring him back, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]