Greg Mudge, owner of famed Mudgie's Deli in Corktown, dies at age 46

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Known to the community as a caring and hard-working Detroit business owner, Mudgie's Deli owner Greg Mudge, 46, died early Sunday, Sept, 5, 2021. 

The cause of death was not immediately known, but his mother, Sandy Pressley, said it was unexpected and not COVID-19 related.

"Everybody loved him," said Pressley, adding that Mudge had recently had a good health checkup and was preparing to take a few days off from the restaurant to go camping with his wife, Liza Pulgini.

Mudgie’s owner Greg Mudge with a muffaletta made of salami, mortadella, ham, ghiridinara, olives, provolone and mozzarella.

"He would give you the shirt off his back. Mudgie's was his life. He was happy," she said, calling his death "very sudden." 

"Everybody that knew Greg loved him," she said. "He was concerned about everybody's health, the employees, the customers. He tried to keep everybody safe."

Mudge, who also was an electronic music DJ, opened Mudgie's Deli in 2008. The space was formerly Eph McNally's, a popular lunch spot, where Mudge was an employee.

Steering his own ship, Mudge turned Mudgie's into a nationally recognized sandwich shop specializing in sustainable, local and hormone-free products. The business grew in 2013 after the addition of a liquor license and later expanded with a bar area and wine shop. Mudgie's made local headlines each July for its popular lobster roll promotion with fresh seafood flown in daily from Maine. 

Mudgie's owner Greg Mudge in 2016 layering beef and mushroom sauce over pasta at an event to feed people at Cass Community Social Services. "My grandmother is Italian so when I think of serving a lot of people, I think of pasta and bread. I just wanted to be able to provide a good, hearty meal," said Mudge.

Mudge was more cautious than other restaurant owners during the pandemic, keeping service to carryout and an outdoor patio only. Still, he told The Detroit News he didn't fault any other business owner who wanted to be fully open. 

A friend of 20 years and restaurant manager of Mudgie's Deli, Melissa McNabb said Mudge's death is "huge for the community." 

"He did so much, whether it was taking care of the park across the street, helping out with the St. Paddy's Day Parade ... anytime we had extra food he would take it over to Mariners Inn. He was a huge part of the community." 

McNabb said Mudge had great love not only for Detroit but for Corktown, specifically, and was a part of the neighborhood's recent transformation.

"Corktown was kind of starting to come back and restaurants were opening, Slows (Bar BQ) was opening up and Greg was taking over from Eph McNally's and turning into Mudgie's. He was an integral part of that. The Corktown we see now isn't the Corktown we saw 13 years ago."

McNabb, who worked at Mudgie's in a variety of roles over the past seven years including in the office and as catering manager, said "everyone had a place" at the restaurant.

Greg Mudge at Mudgie's Deli and Wine Shop in 2018.

"Everyone kind of knew who Greg was," she said. "Customers would come in and they'd meet him once and he was their friend."

She said lately because of staff shortages, Mudge would step in where needed, even working the line. 

"He was there just as a line cook, in the trenches working his butt off with everyone else. He was always appreciative of everyone and he made sure everyone knew it. He was a great person to work alongside with and to be friends with." 

Mudge and his staff at Mudgie's Deli, 1300 Porter in Detroit, had planned to be closed for the holiday until Thursday.

Twitter: @melodybaetens