It all began in 1993, when Charles Schmidt, Cobblestone's founder, had a food experience in SoHo that he would carry with him for over 20 years. Surveying the San Diego food scene, he noticed a glaring gap: a deli offering an elevated experience that surpasses customer expectations and brings joy through food at an accessible price.
Charles Schmidt had a lightbulb moment when he was nine years old: He was with his parents in SoHo for a friend's art show and stepped into Dean & Deluca. It was awe at first sight.
At that exact moment he knew he wanted a place of his own. Nearly three decades later, Cobblestone is no longer a young boy's daydream; it's a brick-and-mortar reality.
Inspired by old New York's cobblestoned streets and iconic deli history, Charles set out to reimagine the fast-casual deli experience and close the gap in customer expectations for quality food and excellent service at an accessible price.
Charles got his start early. He loved going to his local deli and picking up 25 cent bags of popcorn and grenade juice drinks. At 14, he started working at his local deli, stocking shelves, filling refrigerators, and taking the garbage out. The owner saw his drive, and Charles got promoted to sandwich maker. And that's where he fell in love creating things that make people happy.
Charles loved the interactions: seeing the same faces, memorizing the regulars' orders, and building the relationships and friendships he maintains to this day.
After graduating college, he returned to the Douglaston Market and became General Manager. In that year, he changed the deli’s business model and revitalized customers' love and loyalty.
Next came culinary school in Sydney, Australia. At Le Cordon Bleu French Culinary School, Charles refined his kitchen skills, appreciation for quality ingredients, and passion for making food with a reputation for excellence.
He applied to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery & Café in Columbus Circle in New York City. As their Retail Manager, Charles spotted a void that needed to be filled: he noticed the bakery was getting immense catering and wholesale demand, but these were areas where the business hadn't ventured.
Taking the initiative, Charles built a catering and wholesale department from scratch and drove a million-dollar-a-year business line. He moved up from Wholesale Manager to General Manager and was ready for his next challenge.
He and his wife headed out west to San Diego. After running premier restaurants, including Coasterra, a waterfront dining destination, Charles was ready to take Cobblestone from concept to a brick-and-mortar location with a strong digital presence.
And that's where we are today.