The Jew And The Carrot

After 75 Years, Stage Deli Serves Its Final Sandwich

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Flickr: diana.shumate

“The loss is unfathomable,” said “Save The Deli” author David Sax. He was despairing over the closure of New York’s famed Stage Deli, which happened last night at midnight.

The 75-year-old Midtown landmark located just a couple of blocks from Carnegie Hall (and from its rival, the Carnegie Deli) still has its website — with tantalizing photos of overstuffed pastrami sandwiches, crunchy pickles, tangy coleslaw, and creamy cheesecakes — up, but now the food is only for looking at, not tasting. Gone are the sandwiches that gustatorily honored celebrity customers like Mel Brooks, Larry David, Katie Couric, Howie Mandel, Al Rocker, Cindy Adams and Dolly Parton.

The deli which was on seventh Avenue near 54th Street, was founded in 1937 by Russian immigrant Max Asnas, who eventually sold it to Jimmy Richter. It changed hands for the final time in 1978 when Steve Auerbach and Paul Zolenge bought the business.

Zolenge and Auerbach cited a confluence of economic woes as the cause of their famous deli’s closure. “We’ve been struggling to make it through these hard times,” Zolenge told the New York Times. Scaffolding that had been up in front of the building for a year caused business to decline, and the partners decided that they could no longer afford the rent, which was set to increase in a few months from now. “We just couldn’t afford to keep it going any more,” the co-owner explained.

Unfortunately, the Jewish deli business isn’t what it once was. But to lose a legend like The Stage Deli is an especially hard blow. “The Stage Deli was an absolute giant of Jewish deli lore, a buzzing center of history and energy and schmaltz, towering between two slices of thin rye. It nourished the city, built legends, and inspired deli men far and wide,” Sax said. “ I simply can’t imagine New York’s delicatessen world without it.”


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