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[Eric Sussman/DP File Photo] Bob Koch, the gregarious owner of Koch's Deli -- located at 4309 Locust St. --- died unexpectedly due to heart failure in early August.

Posted on the door of 4309 Locust St. is a sign promising the imminent return of Koch's Deli: "In honor of Bobby Koch, the show must go on. We expect to reopen on Thursday, September 8 at 11:00 a.m."

Deli owner Bobby Koch, 58, died unexpectedly on Aug. 8. His death leaves uncertain the future of Koch's Deli -- a Penn community landmark with a tradition spanning five decades.

The sign on the door continues, "We will do our best to honor him by serving you, ‹¨«The best customers in the world.'"

The new operator of Koch's Deli is Larry Dickerson, who has worked alongside Koch for seven of the past eight years.

"Everyone looked at me and said, ‹¨«You gotta keep it going, you gotta keep it going,'" Dickerson said.

Penn alumnus Justin Lavin lived above the deli during his medical-school years. "They probably fed me about half of my meals," Lavin said.

Koch's long lines and distance from the heart of Penn hardly seemed to affect the deli's patronage. According to devotees, the overstuffed sandwiches and pictorial "wall of fame" were a major draw for customers.

To third-year Penn Dental student Bahareh Emadzadeh, Koch's Deli brings to mind "the biggest sandwich I've ever had."

"They really do bring a lot of personality to the local food business," Emadzadeh said.

Lavin agreed.

"I hope the guy keeps the same atmosphere, the same type of friendliness with the customer," he said.

Dickerson has pledged that the deli will be the same as long as he is in charge, noting his friendship with Koch.

"It is something I grew up with. I want to keep it the same," he said.

College junior Sam Donsky, a regular of Koch's since the summer, is "excited" about the return of the deli.

"I think that the family tradition of Koch's transcends any sort of change," Donsky said.

Angelo Dimato, a partner in the adjacent pizza shop, did not know Dickerson by name, but described him as a "very nice guy."

Although Dickerson said he does not know how long he will continue to operate Koch's Deli, he has said he wants to maintain it for at least one more year, in order to mark the 40th anniversary of the local favorite.

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