Save the Deli

NY Bakery and Delicatessen in Kansas City is Closed

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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.

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Maria Sanchez’ article in the Kansas City Star

21 Responses to “NY Bakery and Delicatessen in Kansas City is Closed”

  1. Warren Says:

    When any deli closes it’s a true cultural and culinary deprivation. This closing in particular is sad. Not only for the loss of food and feeling, but for the fact that in Kansas City it might not even be felt. Is there tribe in KC that will suffer this loss?! I honestly don’t know. I would’ve gone there when in KC this fall for the American Royal. Seems like he gave it his best. At any age the food service business is backbreaking. At Mr. Holzmark’s age I’d imagine it’d be near impossible without support. Seems as though he did all he can. I guess delis need support not only in clientele, but in running the business as well. It can’t be done alone.

  2. Martin W. Schwartz Says:

    This makes me want to cry. I’ve literally been going here all my life. My grandmother shopped here, my father shopped here, I took my son here and I just introduced my girlfriend to it about a month ago. I have to be in KC Tuesday for my mother’s surgery and I was planning a trip to the deli on my way home. Man, this sucks.

  3. Marsha Puckett Says:

    Every Christmas Eve, for about 80 years, my husband’s
    family, and now our family, have celebrated with corned
    beef, pepper beef, knot rolls, bagels and salt sticks. Most
    of our extended relatives thought this to be a strange way
    to celebrate. To us, it seemed not only logical, but a
    delicious way to usher in the Christmas season.

    When my girls were old enough, we went with their grandmother to buy the deli supplies every afternoon on
    Christmas Eve. Later, my girls and I made the journey
    without Betty, but she was with us in spirit. Since 2003,
    my grandson and son-in-law joined us. We added a new
    slant and shared one order of bagels and lox. Yes, it was
    enough for four of us.

    To think of a life without Salt Sticks is sad, indeed.

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  6. Snookmic Says:

    I worked a few blocks from the NY Deli in the early 90′s and had a rubin there at least once a week. I’ve been telling my now 13 year old son about them for years. We were going to bAck to KC this weekend and we were going to stuff ourselves on a Rubin there and I found out they were closed and I’m heart broken. I feel like a piece of my past has been lost. It was a wonderful place, the smell when you pulled in the lot would make your mouth water. It was near impossible to eat a whole rubin but I couldn’t help myself, they were so delicious. When I was a kid my Dad would take me to Benny McGoon’s deli in St Jo, MO (another authentic Jewish deli that closed in the 1960′s). I will have to make the trek to NY so my son can experience a good deli.

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  8. Simon Says:

    My routine for about ten years was to once a week or so, go to the NYD in the mid afternoon after the rush had died down. Often times I was the only one in the joint. I would order a double pastrami sandwich with yellow mustard on rye, a creamy coleslaw, and a caffeine free diet coke. Then I would sit in the sunny booth by the southern window, in the western seat, and read ingrams while eating this feasts. It was my little treat for the week, a real pleasure. I still have my frequent sandwich club card over my desk at work. I had two punches on my way to a free sandwich. Something poignant about that. I read the health departments report. I never, in ten years, ever ever ever saw a crawling bug or rat feces, and needless to say, I never got sick there either. Now it just lives on, like the road warrior, in my memories.

  9. Simon Says:

    I forgot to mention, the macaroons. Big, fresh, chewy and tasty. I used to buy a box at a time and wander around work, handing them out to people. So many smiling faces.

  10. Richard Allman Says:

    If I had the money, I’d seek a franchise and open a New York II in Overland Park. I’m 58 and have enjoyed their Rubins since the sixties.

  11. Judy Says:

    Where can I get a good kalatchi? (sp) It was a baked sweet roll made in the shape of a rolled up crescent with cinnamon and sugar and nuts. I would buy them by the dozen. It was fantastic. New York Deli I miss you!!

  12. Debbie Says:

    I went to the NEW YORK DELI when I was little, and it was truly the reason why we went to Kansas City. I’ll never forget the bagels or the smoked white fish! I miss you, New York Deli!

  13. Jon Says:

    I lived in KC for two years 1968-70 and visited the deli regularly. I especially enjoyed Felix who had the most wonderfully droll sense of humor. I visited the Deli once more in 1986 or 87. Felix was still there though a little deaf and the mohn strudel was as good as ever. I am still telling Felix stories. What wonderful memories!

  14. Clay Thomas Says:

    A special day in the city included a stop at the deli to get a couple of dozen egg bagels. At home, we’d throw on the Philly cheese and open up the strawberry pop. Incredible.

    Sad to hear of the closing.

  15. K Says:

    I just found this wandering around the ‘net.

    It’s really sad for me, because although I grew up in KC, I live overseas now. I haven’t had the chance to go to the deli in years now, but I told lots of people stories about it.

    My father was career military, very well traveled, and loved an eclectic list of foods. My mother was a native of KC. After they married they settled into Mom’s home, but Dad went hunting for foods he loved. He would find the oddest places sometimes, which my grandmother (his mother-in-law) thought was a hoot.

    New York Deli was one of those places. Dad was thrilled to find it: he loved bagels, although being not Jewish in the slightest he especially loved doing terribly un-Kosher things like cheese-and-salami bagel sandwiches. (Good salmon is hard to come by in the Midwest anyway.)

    We lived a long ways away from the deli and my parents would pick a day and we’d make a couple hour drive to go get bagel sandwich stuff. We’d pick up all the stuff and often eat in the car on the way back home. My mom was always picky about the thickness of the meat and cheese slices and she would take forever picking out stuff. I can remember as a little kid sitting at a Ms. Pac-Man table machine, fiddling with it while waiting (and starving!)

    I can recall when they had problems and for a while the place was closed. Then, when I was in high school, other bagel shops popped up. My parents claimed they just weren’t the same, but it was still easier than the long drive. Mom even took up making her own bagels for a while. Once in a while we’d make the long trip, or when Dad worked out that way he’d haul bagels home.

    We all moved a long ways from the bakery… me far further than most of my family. I really miss those bagels, and it’s sad I’ll never be able to go back and get them again. It’s another piece of my childhood I won’t be able to show to my kids.

  16. Jacalyn Kornblatt Says:

    My grandfather Philip Kornblatt was a baker in thus bakery during the early years.

  17. Lance Says:

    Does anyone know if they still sell their corned beef? I heard at one time they were still doing that? Also, does anyone know exactly what kind of mustard they used on the Awesome Rueben?

    Thanks!

  18. Suzanne F. Says:

    When I was young, back in the early 60s/70s, my mother would shop there for bread and their coffee cake which was a chocolately marbled delight of deliciousness. I really wish I could get my hands on that recipe.

  19. Eric Says:

    I was stationed at Fort Riley in 1970 – 71. Once a month I’d travel the 120 miles each way to the NY Bakery and Delicatessen to “stock up” on what for me, as a New Yorker, were essentials! I remember it fondly, and am sorry to learn it’s gone.

  20. Zubra Says:

    I’m not surprised the health department fought them because everytime I bought Reuben I would spot some cockroaches in their bakery show cases. That’s why I just stuck to the Reuben.

  21. Kay spaniol Says:

    Is there anyway to get the recipe for the great coconut macaroons & the brownies we used to go there for when I was a kid?

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