It’s going to be a big year for Russ & Daughters. The famed appetizing store is celebrating its 100th birthday. In the spring, co-owners Josh Russ Tupper and Niki Russ Federman are opening a full-service restaurant on Orchard Street. And now, a documentary called “The Sturgeon Queens,” which traces the store’s colorful history through four generations, is screening at film festivals around the country. It will air on PBS later this year (see the trailer above). The documentary was featured in a story that popped up today from The Jewish Week:
Seasoned filmmaker Julie Cohen had been planning a full-length feature on the store for years. She knew that if she wanted to make it happen, 2014 would be the time. “It really had to be this year,” she said. Cohen, who runs the documentary production company Better Than Fiction, came across the idea for a Russ and Daughters movie back in 2008, when PBS commissioned her to produce “The Jews of New York,” an hour-long program that wove together six stories of Jewish life in the city. The tale of the appetizing store was just one of those stories, but it really resonated with Cohen, who, like many secular Jews, said that her strongest connection to her heritage is through its foods. “Like every good Jewish girl, I love lox and pickled herring,” she said. What really drew Cohen into the Russ and Daughters story, though, was the wit and charm of the shop’s eponymous daughters. For the 2008 film, Cohen flew down to Pembroke Pines, Florida to interview the two surviving members of Russ and Daughters’ second-generation owners, Hattie Russ Gold, now 100, and Anne Russ Federman, now 92. The Russ women began apprenticing behind the store’s counter as children, eventually taking over the business with their husbands in the 1940s.
We’ll let you know when we hear about New York screenings and a PBS air date. You can look for updates here. The documentary is an independent project — not an official part of the store’s anniversary festivities.