Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Part 5

Posted on May 22nd, 2017 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

Part V: Mechanization and Innovation: “He had to get more machines to keep producing.”[1]

Miss parts 1-4? Start here.

Hendler’s Creamery brochure, “A Picture Story of One of Baltimore’s Leading Industries: The Most Modern Ice Cream Plant in the World.” Hendler’s has been called the first fully automated ice-cream plant. Courtesy of Samuel Boltansky. JMM 2001.50.1

Hendler’s Creamery brochure, “A Picture Story of One of Baltimore’s Leading Industries: The Most Modern Ice Cream Plant in the World.” Hendler’s has been called the first fully automated ice-cream plant. Courtesy of Samuel Boltansky. JMM 2001.50.1

In 1900 electricity and automobiles were exciting and new and beyond the reach of most people and businesses.  New immigrants didn’t just start small, they started low-tech by today’s standards – sometimes even by the standards of their day.  Bakers used wood-burning stoves, dairymen delivered on foot or, if they were lucky, by horse and cart, sausages were stuffed by hand, and delis used iceboxes.  But as soon as money and technology allowed, small and large businesses alike took up electricity and mechanization.  This wasn’t just a fad, it was a necessity to keep pace with the rest of the business world, and even more necessary for those who wanted to expand.

Oven inside Pariser’s Bakery, 2011 – a big change from the early days of wood burning ovens. Photo by Ilene Dackman-Alon. JMM CP 28.2011.001

Oven inside Pariser’s Bakery, 2011 – a big change from the early days of wood burning ovens. Photo by Ilene Dackman-Alon. JMM CP 28.2011.001

While most family businesses installed electric ovens, refrigerators, and packing machines invented by others, some Baltimore families created their own machines and systems to handle the unique needs of their businesses.  Both Hendlers Creamery and Tulkoff’s Horseradish Products Company had engineers (by practice or training) in the family.  Martin Tulkoff, son of the founder of the company, did not have an advanced degree in engineering but he invented several pieces of equipment to make the plant more efficient.  Other companies bought these patented machines for their own production, in particular the Shrink-O-Matic.[2]  Hendler’s was so proud of being the first fully automated ice-cream plant that they created a brochure that described the electrification and mechanization of their plant on Baltimore Street.  The company claimed a number of ‘firsts’—the first to install the Fast Frozen method, the first to use refrigerated trucks for transportation (which they developed in their own plant), and more.[3] Albert Hendler remembered that his father, L. Manuel Hendler, “though he didn’t know it, designed the first air conditioning system.  That was not his original intention.  His purpose was to devise a method for protecting the ice cream plant from flies.  To compensate for closing it off to the outside, he ventilated the building by blowing in air which traveled through ducts connected to coils.  In wintertime heat was produced by steam, and in summer brine pumped through the coils cooled the interior.”[4]

CP 22.2011.001 – Shrink-O-Matic

CP 22.2011.001 – Shrink-O-Matic

Mechanization was only one way to keep up.  Business innovation takes many forms and even if Baltimore Jewish food businesses weren’t at the pinnacle of technological advancements they were sometimes innovators in terms of products.  Before Tulkoff no one had bottled horseradish, before Gustav Brunn no one had Old Bay, before Fannie Cohen no had tasted a coddie.  Product development was, and still is, as important to business as technological change.

Continue to Part VI: Marketing and Expansion: “We have to expand whether we want to or not.”

Notes:

[1] Ralph Brunn speaking  about his father, Gustav and Ralph Brunn interview, May 7, 1980, OH 112, JMM.

[2]  Martin Morse Wooster, “Roots to Riches: The Tulkoff Family has made horseradish a big business,” Country, May 1984, pg. 21-23; Paula Span, “The Tigers of Lombard Street” Baltimore Magazine, November 1979 pg. 178-180

[3] Baltimore Jewish Times, May 1, 1941, pg. 17

[4] Albert Henlder with Amalie Ascher, “Ice Cream Days,” The Sun Magazine, July 26, 1981

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Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Part 2

Posted on May 10th, 2017 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

Part II: Immigration: “In the United States they would have an opportunity.”[1]

Missed part I? Start here.

The streets of America may not have been paved with gold at the beginning of the twentieth century, but immigrants flooded into the United States looking for opportunities.  A large number of Jewish immigrants chose food as their opportunity.  New arrivals could begin modestly and gradually build a business, supporting their families and even giving a boost to others.

Sol Grossfeld a baker from Radom, Poland immigrated to the United States in the 1920s and established the Warsaw Bakery with partner Solomon Hartman. Courtesy of Mrs. Gertrude Grossfeld Katz. JMM 1992.211.1

Sol Grossfeld a baker from Radom, Poland immigrated to the United States in the 1920s and established the Warsaw Bakery with partner Solomon Hartman. Courtesy of Mrs. Gertrude Grossfeld Katz. JMM 1992.211.1

Immigrants did not often arrive in America with much money, but even so many sought to support themselves rather than relying on employment in someone else’s business.  The Lozinsky family, for example, started as small as anyone could.  They “would take big baskets to the fish market, buy fish, and bring it back. Then they would stand on the sidewalk and sell the fish.”[2]   Others sold out of carts or stalls on the street or out of rooms in their homes.

These small shops supported more than just the immigrants who started them.  The benefits often spilled out to others in the immigrant Jewish community.  Once settled in America, men and women helped to bring over siblings and cousins and other extended family, sometimes giving them jobs until the new arrivals could move out on their own.  As Milton Schwartz of Crystal’s bakery explained, “Everybody that my parents would bring over from Europe, they gave them a job in the bakery. I had several cousins working there. Until they got their start in the New World and could go out on their own, they always had a job in our bakery doing something.”[3]

Nathan London, born in Russia, opened a kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, c. 1900. Courtesy of George London. JMM 2001.109.1

Nathan London, born in Russia, opened a kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, c. 1900. Courtesy of George London. JMM 2001.109.1

Some of the more successful businesses with large workforces gave jobs to new immigrants who were not relatives, perhaps remembering their own struggles trying to make a living.  Gustav Brunn (later the creator of Old Bay and owner of his own large company, Baltimore Spice) worked briefly for Wolf Salganik, the meat processor before striking out on his own.[4]  As late as the 1980s, Brunn’s workforce included a large number of recent immigrants from Europe and Asia.

In some cases settled immigrant families offered homes to newcomers.  Charles Bluefeld, whose wife later started Bluefeld catering, came to Baltimore without any connections.  When he immigrated in 1906 he boarded with the Schreiber family, who ran a meat business (and later a supermarket), though he had no connection to the family and did not work for them.  From earning money to providing a home food gave many immigrants a start.

Continue to Part III: Learning the Trade: “Baking was the only trade he knew.”

Notes:

[1] Dora Silber and Kathryn Sollins interview, n.d.,  OH 123, JMM.

[2] ibid.

[3] Milton Schwartz interview, November 9, 2005, OH 676, JMM.

[4] Louis and Philip Bluefeld, interview, August 6, 1979, OH 75, JMM; Gustav and Ralph Brunn interview, May 7, 1980, OH 112, JMM.

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Bedlam with Corned Beef on the Side: The Jewish Delicatessen in Baltimore Pt. 8

Posted on April 26th, 2017 by

Written by Barry Kessler. Originally published in Generations 1993, reprinted in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways.

Part VIII: The “Madhouse” Lunch Trade

Miss parts 1 – 7? Start here.

Cashier’s check for Awrach and Perl Delicatessen, c. 1940s. JMM 1992.274.2

Cashier’s check for Awrach and Perl Delicatessen, c. 1940s. JMM 1992.274.2

Awrach and Perl’s delicatessen was located on Howard Street in Baltimore’s retail shopping district, where many Jewish people worked in the numerous clothing and department stores. Advertising itself as a luncheonette, delicatessen, soda fountain, and cocktail lounge, it attracted a mixed clientele; many non-Jews came, including ladies on shopping trips and youngsters headed for the movies. The delicatessen carried on a “madhouse” luncheon trade, especially on Saturday, when the upstairs room because a gathering place for teenagers. Awrach and Perl was also frequented by H.L. Mencken and other well-known Baltimoreans.

The owners were two immigrant families from Odessa, successful fruit merchants. They had worked their way up from a pushcart selling bananas on the Lower East Side of New York to a thriving deli in Washington, DC, before moving to Baltimore around 1920. Related by marriage, the families lived together in suburban Forest Park. They belonged to an Orthodox congregation and ate kosher food themselves, although the restaurant was open on Jewish holidays and the menu included bacon, ham, and shrimp salad. The Perls’ two sons and the Awrachs’ two daughters helped out on Saturdays. The families spoke Yiddish among themselves and broken English with customers, their personalities constituting a chief attraction of their establishment.

Bright and noisy, Awrach and Perl was a quintessentially Jewish delicatessen, with well-stocked counters piled high with delicious and appetizing foodstuffs. A long counter for making sandwiches ran along one side. A surviving menu from the early 1940s lists sixteen omelets, 47 sandwiches, ice cream confections, steaks and chops, and a wide variety of beverages, ranging from limeade to whiskey. Eastern European dishes such as schmaltz herring, chopped liver, rolled beef, and tongue joined such American-style offerings as lamb chops, a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich, and poached eggs.[1]

Its general appearance somewhat fancier than the average delicatessen, with a light green color scheme and a black and rust tile floor, Awrach and Perl cultivated a cosmopolitan but casually familiar atmosphere. Max Awrach sat at the cash register near the door, greeting customers; leaving, customers paid according to orange tickets punched by the waitresses to indicate the cost of each item.[2] Over the din one could hear Mrs. Perl, who supervised the upstairs room, calling out “one up,” signaling the most popular order, a hotdog and Coke. The restaurant was reportedly the largest purchaser of hotdogs in Baltimore.[3]

Continue to Part IX: Where All Rubbed Shoulders

Notes:

[1] Original in possession of Martin Lev.

[2] Jewish Museum of Maryland, gift of Hilda Goodwin, 1992.274.2

[3] Typescript reminiscence by Hilda Goodwin (December 1992). Jewish Museum of Maryland Memoir Files.

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