As I mentioned a few times before, last week marked the sad end to a quartet of Chicago deli meat dynasties, as Sara Lee shut down its kosher meat manufacturing plant.
Among those hardest hit emotionally were the families who had sold their businesses to Sara Lee in the past, only to see their legacy disappear. One such individual was Jason Marck, a radio reporter with WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR affiliate. His story, which is well worth listening to, traces his family’s history through Best’s Kosher, for the show Eight Forty-Eight.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD AN MP3 OF THE STORY
Best’s Kosher-A Personal History
In 1886, Isaac Oscherwitz fled oppression and poverty in Eastern Europe for a new life in America. Landing in Cincinnati, he started a sausage-making business with his five sons.
When Isaac died in 1925, two of those sons, Harry and Phillip, moved to Chicago and opened up a sister company, which they called Best’s Kosher.
It remained family-owned until 1993, when it was sold to Sara Lee, based in Downer’s Grove. Last November Sara Lee announced they would be getting out of the kosher meat business, and recently, the Best’s Kosher plant on Pershing Road closed its doors.
It was a sad day for the plant’s nearly 200 employees also for generations of Chicagoans who noshed on the bolognas, salamis, corned beef, and hot dogs, and especially for the Oscherwitz family.
Susan Berger is the founder’s granddaughter, and her dad Sheldon ran the company for many years.