This never gets easy, especially when I know the deli and the owner is such a mensch.
You may recall that when I was traveling across the US two years ago, at the very start of this blog, I visited the New York Bakery and Delicatessen in Kansas City, MO.
I’ll quote from that writeup:
New York Bakery and Delicatessen happens to be the oldest such establishment in Kansas City, having opened in 1905. This makes it one of the oldest in the Midwest, and puts it up there amongst the oldest delicatessens worldwide (younger than Katz’s…tied with Shapiro’s). Yet, due to its location in the dead centre of America, with a very small Jewish population, it has remained unknown and relatively forgotten.
Jim Holzmark has been running the place for years, after the previous owner got nabbed for art theft. The mainstay of the business is the bakery, which supplies Jewish breads, cakes, and pastry to the region. They make a cakey bagel (more like round challah), outsanding cinamon raisin bread, splendid ryes, gorgeous challah, but the kicker isn’t baked goods or pickled and steamed deli meats…it’s the smoked brisket.
Kansas City is a Bar-B-Q town, where the soul food of the Black community is synonymous with mesquite, slow cooking, and well spiced rubs on fatty cuts of meat.
Deli is all about slow cooking fatty cuts of meat rubbed with spicy rubs…and so the connection was made by a man named Sonny Taborn, an African-American baker and fan of the grill “Yep, I done some Bar-B-Q in my day”. The briskets are smoked in a small metal box, and the vapor rises through a greasy pipe into the ceiling (it used to just go into the air, infusing everything in the bakery with the heavenly smell of this concoction).
Sigh. You know where this is going.
Sadly, the New York Bakery and Delicatessen is closed. I heard about it from several Save the Deli readers, and finally from Jim Holzmark and his wife Barbara. Here’s the story:
Two years back, when I was in the deli, Holzmark told me that he was thinking of selling the place. He’d just turned 70, none of his kids wanted to take over, and the hours were backbreaking. He wanted to retire, and he put the deli up for sale. A year later, when none of the offers came through, he simply told me “Cash talk and bullshit walks” and endeavored to soldier on, and with right-hand-man Sonny Taborn at his side, he was making adjustments so that it’d be easier.
Sadly, last March, Sonny had a stroke and has been incapacitated since. Jim tried to work even harder, despite the difficulty, but then got into a fight with the health department. They cited him for various violations and demanded he make $80,000-$100,000 in improvements to bring the sixty plus year old building up to code. Rather than fight, and spend all his money doing so, Holzmark bowed out, depriving KC of its last Jewish deli.
“Sonny’s stroke took the wind out of my sails,” said Holzmark, in a conversation today, “The health department rode me pretty hard, and with that and with Sonny I had to cut out a lot of my wholesale business. So I made the decision to just shutter it. Its a real shame, because Pumpernick’s, the only other Jewish restaurant/deli in town, just closed six weeks ago. That’s it for Jewish food in Kansas City.”
Damn. I’m speechless at this loss. Keep fighting Save the Deli fans. We’re not out of the woods yet.