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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Bedlam with Corned Beef on the Side: The Jewish Delicatessen in Baltimore Pt. 3

Posted on April 10th, 2017 by

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

Part III: Caplan’s Delicatessen

Miss parts 1 – 2? Start here.

Caplan and Co, advertisement, 1933. Gift of Mrs. Renee Piel. JMM 1993.104.3.4

Caplan and Co, advertisement, 1933. Gift of Mrs. Renee Piel. JMM 1993.104.3.4

Harry R. Caplan’s was the longest-lived of this first crop of delicatessens, remaining in business – although in changed form – from 1897 into the 1960s. After several years in Baltimore as a tailor, Caplan had appeared under “provisions” in the City Directory as far back as 1898 and in 1904, in the alphabetical section of the Directory, his trade was listed as a delicatessen owner. His shop grew and moved around the neighborhood, from 911 to 915 east Baltimore Street, to 910 Watson, to 918 East Lombard, settling the 1920s at 23 South High Street (between Baltimore and Lombard Streets).

Caplan’s delicatessen is remembered today especially for the fragrant barrels of pickles and olives (maslines in Yiddish) in front of its counter, and for the high-quality sliced meats that people came to buy on Saturday nights. A 1933 calendar booklet issued in English and Yiddish by the shop claimed that it was the largest firm of its type in America.[1] Advertisements in the booklet for a wide range of groceries promoted brand-name products packaged by Rokeach, Manischewitz, and Goodman and Sons; the shop carried a full line of Carmel brand strictly kosher meats, including tongue, pastrami, and “wonder sausage.”

The shop sold many products it produced itself, such as Belvedere Coffee, “roasted and blended by us.” Fourteen varieties of fish were smoked daily by Caplan, including shad, Kieler sprotten (sprats from Kiel), capchunkes (salt-cured, air-dried whitefish), rybetz (Russian for big fish), and belerivitze, and he also imported fish directly from Scotland and Alaska – “packed by us in our specially equipped factory” and marketing in glass jars under the Gibralter label.

In 1940 Harry Caplan gave up retailing, turning over his distribution of name-brand groceries to the Joffe Brothers of West Pratt Street.[2] Trading as the Southern Food Corporation at 5 Lloyd Street, he was the regional distributer for the Hygrade Foods line of delicatessen meats from New York. Harry Saval, founder of what is now the largest distributor of deli meats in Baltimore, worked for [Harry Caplan] during this time.

Continue to Park IV: A Decade of Deli

Notes:

[1] Jewish Museum of Maryland, Gift of Renee Piel, 1993.104.4

[2] Baltimore Jewish Times, March 29, 1940.

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