Save the Deli

Isaac “Ike” Starkman, Jerry’s Deli owner, dead

There have been few people here at Save the Deli that I have expressed displeasure for, but one of those was certainly Isaac “Ike” Starkman, the founder and owner of the California chain Jerry’s Famous Deli, and the man ultimately responsible for the closing of Miami’s beloved Rascal House. I’ve remarked at my displeasure for the way Mr. Starkman and his sons cannibalized Rascal House and sold it for the chance of condominiums, trading on the name of the landmark deli. I even started a petition protesting this. Every attempt to interview him was refuted, ignored, and denied.

But it saddens me to hear about the sudden death of Mr. Starkman, who passed away on July 4th of a heart attack in Miami.

I’ll quote from his obituary in the Miami Herald:

”He was the most ambitious and most respected guy I’ve met in my whole life,” said his son, Jason, “a one in a million kind of guy.”

Born in Israel in 1937, Starkman served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a lieutenant from 1955 to 1958, before moving to New York in 1961. He arrived with $103 in his pocket and not much else, Jason said. His first job was as a courier.

In 1978 he co-founded Jerry’s Famous Deli in Beverly Hills and Studio City, Calif. Today the restaurant has seven locations in California and one in Florida. That was his pride, family said.

”He was [at Jerry's in South Beach] every morning without fail,” Jason said. “That was his office.”

No one will be allowed to sit at the table from now on, Jason said.

Ike Starkman was not your typical deli man. He introduced us to big delis, crowded out his menus with wraps, salads, pizzas, and even lobster…obscuring much of the Jewish flavor. He once professed in an interview to see the traditional deli foods as outdated, and thought that Israeli style spreads and salads were more relevant. A deli man he was not.

But he was ambitious. He began a deli empire. He took the first delicatessen public, listing his company under the symbol DELI, for a brief, unsuccessful period. He may have earned the scorn of deli lovers and owners alike, but he gave them something to compete against, showed us what else there was out there, and how deli could go the other way. And though his deli food was rather awful and overpriced, he still served deli, and for that he should earn our respect.

A heartfelt Alef Hashalom goes out to the entire Starkman family and staff of Jerry’s Famous Deli for their loss.

24 Responses to “Isaac “Ike” Starkman, Jerry’s Deli owner, dead”

  1. Howard (Silverstein) Binstock Says:

    Heartfelt sympahy to his entire family. In this day and age Mr. Starkman died quite a young man and that’s the true nature of the personal tragedy.

  2. Yotam Netanyahu Says:

    My sincerest condolences to the Starkmans — and props to Save the Deli for handling this horrible tragedy with grace and aplomb.

  3. dennis Says:

    I live 30 miles from the Rascal House. I refuse to say anything positive about this guy. My (Jewish) father lived until 94 so he must have lived life smarter than him

    At least some good news in Broward. Lox Haven has reopened as Lox and Bagel Depot next to the Walmart in Sunrise. A legendary smoked fish and Jewish food store

    954 746 4211

  4. Ersun Says:

    He was not a fair man you will give him a notice as a gentelman and he will say leave today he will try to keep your money people says he sold the jerry’s stocks and then said we are loosing the money we buy the stocks for a half price.he didin’t have great reputation in business world

  5. Alan Levy Says:

    Jerry’s is as good as any top NY deli. I feel soory for the famalies lost.


  6. Sam Says:

    Karma is a bitch, no?

  7. Dovid Dorffman Says:

    Good riddance. He destroyed a FL landmark. Now his ne’er-do-well son is preserving a table in Ike’s honor at his roach infested Sobe dump. Hey Jason wake up. No one wants to eat your overpriced ‘food’ anyway. Keep all the tables reserved for all I care. Never will I eat in a Jerrys Famous.

  8. yvette Says:

    My condolences go out to the family. I personally knew Ike he was a wonderful man with a heart of gold.He will be missed.

  9. mark cohen Says:

    who cares…..

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  13. Epicure Market Says:

    Epicure employees As we are very upset. Our pay is cut in half to pay Jason’s Hard rock casino bills He own 1.2 Million to the casino and we are paying for it. We have kids and families to feet but they just don’t care. All our suppliers are on C.O.D basis ( Cash On Delivery) we want our vacation pay,regular pay and we want it on time Do something Mark and jason or we are going to Labor fair department or strike on Alton Road.

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  15. Donna evans Says:

    I worked for jerrys deli for 5yes.Jason.justin laloggia have been nothing but good to me.if i had the money he owes.i w redould repay it their like family to me.i miss ike may he rest in heaven

  16. Lars J Says:

    Thank you for the candor in your commentary. There are some heated comments in the replies… The truth about Ike is that he was a complicated man. He saw things his way until someone came along with a valid argument. He could listen, too. He made something of himself, out of nothing. I knew him, his wonderful wife Caroline, and both sons. He was a friend to me when I was just a kid, back in LA and an employer a few times, too. But what he was most to me was an inspiration. If he had a dream, he made it happen. If someone didn’t like what he was doing? Screw ‘em! They weren’t paying his bills anyway… What Ike loved was someone who didn’t play the yes man. He wanted to be challenged and wanted people around that could help him meet that challenge. If Ike could do it, anyone could. Sure he had an ego, sure he had faults. But he taught me things you can’t learn in school and for that I will be eternally grateful. No, I’m not the only one that feels this way. God bless you, Ike and Caroline. I miss both of you, very much. Thank you for your kindnesses.

  17. Donna evans Says:

    Thank you fot your kind words.I’m comming in jan do you kbow how I can get in touch with jason starkman.Donna formet employee

  18. Corrie Moresco Says:

    I lived in Hallandale Beach. This man got what was coming to him. You don’t destroy a community in the name of insurance money. A hundred of people lost their jobs. You disgust me and bring shame to your family.

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