Brian Crouse has spent a lifetime feeding people.
Over the past 21 years, Crouse served up thousands of meals and sandwiches at the Sunset Court Deli – affectionately dubbed “the German Deli” by locals – until he sold the business a few months ago.
But feeding the hungry hasn’t been just a career for the 48-year-old. Providing food for the less fortunate has long been his life’s mission, he said. Crouse has donated food and time to agencies such as the Riverhead soup kitchen and Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach Program.
“If you have food and people are hungry, it just makes sense to feed them,” Crouse said.
After Hurricane Katrina, Crouse went to New Orleans to feed volunteers.
“It was a humbling experience,” he said.
Another humbling experience for Crouse was being named the grand marshal of the 44th Annual Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“It came as a real surprise that they made me grand marshal. It’s my first parade and I’m getting to walk down the middle of Main Street,” he said. “The community has always supported me and they continue to support me in this. I just hope I continue to live up to their expectations.”
The parade kicks off at noon Saturday at the intersection of Mill Road and Oneck Lane in Westhampton Beach.
Lynn Jones, last year’s grand marshal, said Crouse is “a really good choice” to lead this year’s festivities.
“He’s always extremely generous with contributions for anything to do with the school and the kids,” Jones said. “They all loved his German deli iced tea. It’s become a tradition no one can do without.”
She said Crouse is an all-around nice guy who’s very humble.
Kathy Tureski, president of the Westhampton Beach Theater Booster Club, said Crouse always donated cups and iced tea to help raise funds for events.
“He has always been very supportive of the arts – and all the kids,” Tureski said. “He’s always been willing to lend a hand to anyone who needed help.”
Westhampton Beach Village Trustee Hank Tucker agreed.
“He ran a great business in our community. And he was very generous in donating to meet the needs of various organizations,” Tucker said. “He’s a genuinely nice guy who deserves to be the grand marshal.”
Born in Happauge, Crouse graduated from Stony Brook University and later moved to Westhampton and raised his two sons, Rory and Kevin. He was working in the deli when an opportunity came up to purchase the business.
“I borrowed money from everyone I knew,” said Crouse, who currently lives in East Quogue with his partner, Janet Cirrone.
But he always dreamed of following his original career path. And after selling the store, he began studying oriental medicine at the New York College of Health Professions in Syosset, with the goal of attending the University of Bridgeport’s naturopathic medicine program.
But no matter where life takes him, Crouse said he will always find time to nurture hungry souls.
“When anything comes up, I’m involved with food – whether it be the rotary spaghetti dinner or the soup kitchen,” Crouse said. “It’s just what I’ve done forever.”
Photo: Brian Crouse is the grand marshal of the 44th Annual Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade.