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Saturday, February 23, 2013 

NY Jewish delis are closing

If you've ever enjoyed visiting a Jewish delicatessen, and eating some great corn beef sandwiches, it won't be great to know that a lot of them are closing down, mainly in New York:
Increasing apathy, particularly from younger patrons, has driven traditional Jewish delicatessens from their mid-century pinnacle. The decline seems to be accelerating partly because of health concerns over the schmaltz-spread fare and partly because bagels are now available in every supermarket.

Add sides of restaurant-industry slump and rising lease rates, and even local landmarks aren't immune.

In the last three months, three long-standing emporiums of corned beef and matzo around the country have closed.

Faced with aging clientele and a difficult economy, Ashkenaz Delicatessen in Chicago went dark in November and was replaced by a seafood joint called Da Lobsta. In Manhattan, high rent and the recession led to the closure of 75-year-old Stage Deli.

"People don't open up new delis anymore because it's very, very difficult to do," said Marian Levine, owner of Stage's longtime rival, Carnegie Deli in Manhattan.

In the first half of the 20th century, several thousand Jewish delis were operating in New York. But as Jewish immigration to the East Coast ebbed after World War II and younger generations splintered into the suburbs, the number has shrunk to a few dozen.

Demographic shifts in Los Angeles in the last few decades — along with the arrival of brands such as Langer's in MacArthur Park, Canter's on Fairfax and the Brent's chain — sparked hope of a Jewish deli revival in the Southland.

Lately, however, the region has suffered the same troubles bedeviling delis in the east.

Jerry's Famous Deli closed its Costa Mesa branch this spring and laid off dozens of employees. After years spent dishing up pickle-flanked masses of pastrami to the likes of Bruce Willis and Mel Brooks, Junior's closed following a rental spat with its landlord.

"There's nothing that can bring back the centrality of the deli in either Jewish life or American life," said Ted Merwin, an expert on Jewish culture and a professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. "There's no way they're going to survive in the numbers they once did."
There you go - it's the bad economy situation that's led in part to the decline of these once great choices for resturants, to say nothing of the birthrate declines. As a result, there's not as many of these places where it could be great to go for a corn beef sandwich anymore. Sad.

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