Oy. First the pickle folks are leaving Manhattan, and now this. I just heard that Deli Masters, one of four remaining kosher delis in Queens, NY, has closed. Open since 1948, it made it just past six decades before succumbing to the economy and the change of the neighborhood. Owner Jonathan Kalan did his best to keep the business alive, after he bought it several years back, but the perfect storm of recession, kosher food costs, and a dwindling client base proved too much.
I asked Jay Parker, the owner of Queens deli Ben’s Best, what the story was:
“Too much rent and not enough business,” he told me. “Jonathan went out like a gentleman. He paid all his vendors and didn’t leave anyone hanging. He’s from the old school. A real mensch.”
What did Parker think about the closing?
“People say I have less competition, and that somehow I’ll profit off this, but I say NO! My iceberg is smaller. The whole field is shrinking away underneath us. We’re marginalized, all us delis here. I did better when it was 5000 of us. When are you going to stop thinking about delis? When there aren’t any more.”
Is there a future for Deli Masters?
“He’s talking about finding another location, but I don’t see it. Not with the tiny margins in this business. Now in Queens, there’s me and Buddy’s, and Ben’s. And that’s it. There used to be 8 stores within 10 blocks of here. Now it’s three for the entire borough.”
Sad news indeed.