Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Part 6

Posted on May 24th, 2017 by

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

Part VI: Marketing and Expansion: “We have to expand whether we want to or not.”[1]

Miss parts 1-5? Start here.

Tulkoff's Horseradish Advertisement, c. 1960s. JMM 1998.18.14

Tulkoff’s Horseradish Advertisement, c. 1960s. JMM 1998.18.14

In the time of the neighborhood deli and corner grocery store, proximity and word of mouth brought in business to the small shops.  People walked to the closest bakery or learned from their friends if a better confectionary might be a few blocks further away.  But by the early twentieth century, advertising and marketing became necessary for survival and particularly for growth.  As more and more people owned cars and installed refrigerators, going long distances to stock up on food became more feasible.  Sticking close to home wasn’t really necessary any more, opening up far more options for consumers.  For owners who wanted to stay in business or for those who wanted to expand, advertising and marketing became crucial.

Advertising came in many forms.  Large businesses with a big workforce and money to invest could buy ads of varying sizes in the local newspapers.  The Jewish owned businesses in Baltimore reached out to the Jewish community through the Baltimore Jewish Times.  Smaller businesses gave money in return for being featured in programs for local events, such as the Pioneer Club dance of 1937.  Owners could show their support for the community as well as promote themselves.  Businesses might also distribute fliers with their specials, or cover Baltimore with signs.

Name recognition has always been important to businesses.  Turn of the century dairies used bottles imprinted with their names and logos.  The small shops that became big businesses in Baltimore such as Hendlers Creamery, Silbers Bakery, and Tulkoff’s Horseradish Products Company, put their name and logo on product labels, signs, cake tins, and bags.

Pint bottle from Snesil Dairy. Courtesy of Marion Snesil. JMM 1984.16.1

Pint bottle from Snesil Dairy. Courtesy of Marion Snesil. JMM 1984.16.1

Aside from ads, packaging, and slogans, businesses big and small used promotional techniques to set themselves apart from their competitors and expand their customer base.  Paul Wartzman, whose family owned Wartzman’s bakery once commented that, “Stone’s was the most successful bakery. They catered to a lot of non-Jews because they came out with a gimmick: hot rolls every half hour. I’ll never forget that. They killed all the other bakers. People would rush in for their hot rolls every half hour.”[2]  Nates and Leon’s deli meanwhile drew in the crowds by offering something no one else did – round the clock service.  Twenty-four hours a day customers could find a sandwich.  This was particularly attractive to the people leaving nightclubs in the early hours of the morning.[3] Stones Bakery and Nates and Leon’s had more than just gimmicks in common – they both catered to the broader Baltimore community, expanding beyond the local Jewish residents.  Expansion was a key step in the survival of Jewish food businesses.

As marketing brought in new customers some small businesses outgrew their first floor shops.  Wolf Salganik began as a butcher in a single building with his home on the second floor, but by the 1930s he and his sons had taken over multiple buildings where they carried out their wholesale meat processing on three floors.[4]  Harry Tulkoff followed a similar pattern, starting out in a small grocery store in the 1920s then buying up several, connected buildings to convert into a single processing plant on Lombard Street before eventually moving out to their current larger location.  Hendlers Creamery, Saval Foods Corporation, Silber’s bakery, Baltimore Spice, and others did likewise.  Some of these businesses grew and sold out to other corporations, but others still exist today, still running and still growing and still in the family.

Early Saval Foods location. JMM CP 21.2011.8

Early Saval Foods location. JMM CP 21.2011.8

Expansion could mean creating an entirely new business.  The corner grocery store was the forerunner of the modern supermarket, but supermarkets are more than just big grocery stores – they are a new entity that moved away from early twentieth century specialization to generalization.  Baltimore saw its first supermarkets before World War II.  Businesses like Food Fair (a national supermarket chain that started in the late 1920s) and the local, Jewish-owned Food-O-Rama and Shreiber’s supermarket changed how families shopped. “The Shreiber Brothers did the impossible. They made a store where you had not just meats, but you had groceries. Then they brought in their own baker.  By adding on they had the supermarket. It [may have been] the first supermarket in the entire country.”[5]  Today, in addition to regional and nationwide chains Baltimore has local supermarkets such as Eddies, and Seven Mile Market, the latter not just Jewish owned but also aimed at the Jewish community.

Schreiber’s Grocery, 1959. JMM 1998.16.2

Schreiber’s Grocery, 1959. JMM 1998.16.2

Impact and Legacy

The stories of family-owned Jewish food businesses have not stopped being created.  Many small shops closed, leaving behind only the fond memories of scents and tastes that can never be duplicated.  Other businesses that began long ago still exist today run by third or fourth generation owners providing the old standards while staying close to their historical roots.  And new businesses continued to open.

Restaurants, bakeries, and delis continue to open, owned and operated by Jewish men and women – often to serve the Jewish community.  Local entrepreneurs (or transplants from elsewhere in the US) establish new businesses, and so do recent immigrants.  Families from places like Israel, Iran and Russia arrive in Baltimore and start their own restaurants or bakeries or delis, using their knowledge and skills of food from their former homes to support their families.  Jewish family food businesses have long been a part of the local economy, and though the world is very different today than it was a hundred years ago, the stories of living and eating and family fare remain constant.

Continue to Sidebar One: The Bluefeld Catering Story:People came from all around”

Notes:

[1] Howard Saval, 1982 Baltimore Sun

[2] Paul Wartzman interview, June 5, 2006, OH 686, JMM.

[3] Mina Shavitz interview, March 33, 3002, OH 648, JMM.

[4] Gordon Salganik interview, n.d., OH 318, JMM.

[5] Louis and Philip Bluefeld interview, August 6, 1979, OH 75, JMM.

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Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Part 4

Posted on May 17th, 2017 by

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

Part IV: The Ma and Pa Shop: “My mother did all the cooking. We did all the rest.”[1]

Miss parts 1-3? Start here.

Family meant everything to the food businesses of the Jewish Baltimore community.  The typical pattern was similar to the story of the Rodbells – the father started a business based on the skills he already had, the mother took care of the children and home as well as helping out in the store, and the kids were put to work on the weekends and before and after school.  The store was often the family home with living quarters above or behind the business space.

Itzhak and Leah Brotman in front of their butcher shop on Lombard Street. Itzhak’s brother, Hyman, was also a kosher butcher. Courtesy of Saul H. Brotman. JMM 1991.170.6

Itzhak and Leah Brotman in front of their butcher shop on Lombard Street. Itzhak’s brother, Hyman, was also a kosher butcher. Courtesy of Saul H. Brotman. JMM 1991.170.6

Some stories varied of course.  Joe Mandell was a young man when he took over the deli on Lombard Street where he had worked for several years.  Rather than a wife and children helping out, Joe’s father and stepmother worked for him.  In fact his stepmother did all of the cooking at his first small operation on Lombard Street.  According to Mandell, “She was an excellent cook, her soups were like good wine.”[2]  At one point, Harry Attman, founder of Attman’s Delicatessen, owned and operated two stores several blocks apart – he ran one while his wife, Ida, ran the other.  While many people talk about husbands and fathers starting businesses, other stories have the wives and mothers using their skills to support the family.  Bluefeld’s Catering was established by Bessie Bluefeld, and Rena Kolman remembers the mother of a friend who “had a little grocery store that was made from a front room.  She came from the old country, no husband, and she raised three children there.”[3] However the store started, it all came back to family.

Hyman Brotman’s daughter Sylvia Brotman Spivak outside the poultry shop that she ran with her husband. Photograph by John McGrain. JMM 1995.187.13

Hyman Brotman’s daughter Sylvia Brotman Spivak outside the poultry shop that she ran with her husband. Photograph by John McGrain. JMM 1995.187.13

For some families opening up a little food shop was a means to another end.  Mothers and fathers may have needed the help of their children to make a living, but they had their eyes on different goals for the futures of their offspring.  Many wanted their children to get through school and move on to different professions.  Ida Attman urged her son Edward not to stay in the deli business (though her son Seymour did eventually take over).[4]   Rena Kolman’s parents made school the priority and hired a girl to help in their confectionary store rather than putting their children to work.  Without a second generation to carry on the business they eventually closed the store.[5]

Morris Hack worked at his father’s grocery store on George Street. Courtesy of Mamie Rosenfield Baker. JMM 1990.12.6c

Morris Hack worked at his father’s grocery store on George Street. Courtesy of Mamie Rosenfield Baker. JMM 1990.12.6c

Other businesses stayed in the family for generations.  Some of the most familiar and well-loved food businesses that came out of the Jewish community in Baltimore passed from parents to their adult children and sometimes even their grandchildren.  Many of those businesses, such as Hendlers Creamery, Saval Food Products, and Tulkoff’s Horseradish, became (or still are) large enterprises that reached beyond the local community to a regional or national level.  Other shops, like Attmans Deli remained local physically, but still draw in crowds from well beyond the neighborhood.

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

Notes:

[1] Sid Mandell quoted in, Gil Sandler, “Taking Orders,” Baltimore Jewish Times, January 26, 2007.

[2] Joe Mandell interview, December 30, 1992, OH 319, JMM.

[3] Rena Kolman interview, May 18, 2006, OH 684, JMM.

[4] Edward Attman interview, November 28, 2005, OH 678, JMM.

[5] Rena Kolman interview, May 18, 2006, OH 684, JMM.

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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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