How Jewish delis are evolving with the times

Lido Kosher Deli is the last one left in Long Beach.

Wally Goetz recently brought on his son Russ as the fourth-generation owner. The family has been serving up soul food since the 1930s and recently began expanding its retail and refrigeration space.

"At one point there were five kosher delis in this one small town," he said. "Now we’ve been able to withstand the test of time."

Surprisingly the pandemic was a positive for the deli men. Ever since they’ve seen a resurgence of younger and returning customers who for months had nothing to do but eat.

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According to food chroniclers, the number of Jewish delis in the United States has continued to decline from approximately 1,500 in the five boroughs back in the 1930s to just a couple dozen standalone Jewish delis left in the nation.

Ted Merwin, author of "Pastrami on Rye" explains Jewish delis were once a gathering place. While the number of them will dwindle - those that do remain will continue serving up nostalgia with a side of pastrami.

"The deli wasn’t a part of Jewish life," Merwin said. "It was part of the fabric of New York City. Lots of people grew up eating deli regardless of if they were Jewish and they have warm fuzzy feelings about this kind of food from their childhood."

Ronnie Dragoon started in the business when he was 24. Now the 73-year-old is the CEO and president of Ben’s Kosher Deli.

"The menu was sandwiches and open sandwiches," Dragoon said.

Now the menu has evolved to meet the needs of the next generation.