Save the Deli

Schwartz’s Sold!

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Some days you wake up, turn on the computer, and the world has changed. 9/11, the Arab Spring, and now…this.

According to news reports out of Montreal, Schwartz’s has been sold. Reports the Huffington Post:

the transaction took place around Jan. 7, after which the now-former owner, businessman Hy Diamond, filed a request for dissolution of his business with the Registre des entreprises du Québec – the province’s business registry. The sale of the uber-popular deli was motivated by a desire simply to move on, sources told HuffPost Quebec.

It is reported, but unconfirmed that the new owner paid $10 million for the iconic temple of smoked meat, and that said owner could be none other than René Angélil, husband of Celine Dion, now the literal queen of schmaltz.

I think the term “holy shit” is appropriate in this situation.

This wouldn’t be Rene and Celine’s first venture into the deli business. When her career first took off in the 1990′s, she owned and expanded a chain of smoked meat focused diners called Nickels, known best for selling a second smoked meat sandwich for just a nickel, and putting smoked meat on every dish, like it were olive oil in an Italian restaurant. It was cheap, it was tacky, and the smoked meat was some over processed crap…basically Celine’s music, compressed into a sandwich.

I can only hope, and will pray for, a more preservationist streak with Schwartz’s in these hands. Time and time again I’ve seen investors scoop up beloved, traditional, golden Jewish delicatessens. Time and again they look at them, unleash their MBA trained children, with visions of multi-chain empires and expanded profit margins. Time and again those delis are diluted, sucked dry, and eventually destroyed.

Hy Diamond, the owner who just sold, was a great steward for Schwartz’s. He didn’t change a thing, except expanding the takeout section, recognizing that the value of Schwartz’s is it’s rarity. People line up there because it’s so small. They rave about it because it remains unchanged, undiluted, and true to its history. So to Rene, Celine, and the rest of the investors, I can only ask that they take a step back, and examine what they’ve bought. It’s not a gold mine, or a parking lot that can be built into condos. It’s not a burger chain, ready to be cut and pasted into every highway off ramp. It’s an institution, possibly the greatest Jewish delicatessen in the world, and if they fuck it up, the world will not forgive them.

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