Reporters were summoned to the Streit’s Matzo Factory yesterday for a pre-Passover tour of the doomed Lower East Side production facility. The media happening was orchestrated to showcase reality star Jill Zarin’s new role as company spokeswoman. But, of course, it also turned into another opportunity to mourn the loss of Streit’s as one of the last historic Jewish businesses remaining on the LES. In January, Streit’s announced it would shut down its Rivington Street plant and move operations to New Jersey.
Co-owners Aaron Gross, Alan Adler and Aaron Yagoda were on hand for yesterday’s tour. Here’s a sampling from yesterday’s news stories. The Forward:
As the closing date inches closer, customers descend on the factory’s small storefront to stock up on matzo and say their goodbyes. Albert Zeitchick, a former longtime resident of the Lower East Side, recalled his childhood visits to the store before Passover. “I’ve been coming here for more than fifty years,” he said. “My grandmother insisted that we buy our matzo here.” They would also journey to Shapiro Wines and Gus’s Pickles — both former longtime Jewish fixtures in the neighborhood — but Streit’s would always be the first stop. “This is a landmark,” he said. “We’re losing part of our heritage, part of our history.”
…Many Jewish families returned year after year to get their passover matzo at Streit’s. “The closing of Streit’s Matzo is not only about the closing of a story that they were fond of, but I think everything that it symbolized about the Lower East Side as a kind of Jewish Plymouth Rock,” (Annie Polland of the Tenement Museum) said. The closing is also hard on the factory’s 30 employees, like Michael Abramov, a baker here for 25 years. “This is like our second house,” Abramov said. The family said every worker will be offered a job in the new location, likely New Jersey. They also stressed that the factory is closing, not their business. Streit’s will still make matzo, but this matzo plant will just be a memory.
Streit’s Matzo Factory, which has been baking the kosher unleavened bread since 1915, will put out its last signature pink boxes on Rivington Street this Passover. But the 100-year-old brand isn’t stuck in the past. “When you think of a Jewish mother I hope you think of me,” Streit’s new spokeswoman and former “Real Housewives of New York City” star Jill Zarin said during a factory tour yesterday… “Emotionally, customers may be sad,” co-executive vice president Aaron Gross said of the upcoming move. “But we have a lot of hoops to jump through that a lot of our competition doesn’t. This is a competitive business. The fact that we made it here this long is amazing.” Along with the upgraded ovens and the addition of Zarin as a spokeswoman, the company has launched an online store and is planning to post various recipes to a new blog.