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An East Williamsburg appetizing shop offers ‘a taste of nostalgia’ to its customers



(New York Jewish Week) — Let’s face it: Classic Jewish deli and appetizing shops are having a moment. According to Bon Appetit, “the old school deli is the newest hot girl hangout,” while an exhibit on Jewish delis at the New-York Historical Society continues to draw crowds. These days, we’re basically all Estelle Reiner and we want to have what Sally Albright is having.

In recent years, a whole new crop of appetizing stores and delis have popped up in New York, with even Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) from “Succession” getting into the business: He’s an investor in the newish Jewish lunch counter S&P. And while some of these establishments, like Edith’s Sandwich Counter, seek to bridge the gap between an older generation and a new one, the year-old Simply Nova in East Williamsburg is all about harkening back to the days of yore.

From their tagline (“A taste of nostalgia”) to their classic deli boards, Simply Nova hopes to transport their clientele to the past.

According to Sean Brownlee, co-owner of Simply Nova, their emphasis on nostalgia is having the intended effect. “When people come in, the first thing they say is, ‘This reminds me of my childhood,’” Brownlee, 25, told the New York Jewish Week. “And that’s a really good, good feeling to know that we bring old memories — old, good memories — to people.”

The menu’s old-school offerings certainly help, too: Simply Nova boasts everything you’d want from an appetizing store and more — including, but certainly not limited to, bagels and all of the requisite fixings, pastrami and roast beef sandwiches, chopped liver, herring, matzah ball soup, latkes and a bakery corner featuring babka, rugelach, macaroons and black and white cookies. Simply Nova has scores of lox options on offer, like a pastrami cured salmon, beet gravlax and an Icelandic salmon of which Simply Nova is New York City’s exclusive purveyor. (My favorite is the classic Eastern Nova Scotia.) And yes, gluten-free bagels and dairy-free cream cheese are available as well.

Brownlee first met co-owner Felix Placencia, 52, when they worked together at a few other New York City appetizing stores. (Brownlee and Placencia declined to name those shops, though this Instagram post indicates they both had worked at Russ & Daughters.) They realized that with their combined experience and passion, they could go into business for themselves.

Brownlee has spent his entire seven-year career at appetizing shops, Placencia has 26 years devoted to the same. But perhaps just as important as work history was the shared conclusion that there was something missing from their previous places of employment: an emphasis on service.

“We wanted to create a more close relationship with the customers and bring nostalgic spirits to them, especially neighborhoods like these, where they don’t have that close relationships with those businesses out there,” Brownlee said. He estimates that their clientele is about evenly divided across generational lines, with approximately 45% of them Jewish.

“These days there is not many truly neighborhood store[s] where people go and it’s ‘their’ store, where they can go every week or every day if they desire to, and feel comfortable,” Brownlee said, estimating that 80% of their clientele are repeat customers.

“We believe that the first experience of the food is the service,” he added. “So if you come to a place that doesn’t give you that first impression of customer service, even though the food is great, you’re not going to taste it.”

Brownlee and Placencia are both of Dominican heritage, and although neither is Jewish, their time working in appetizing stores has instilled in them a deep love of traditional appetizing foods. “I felt very connected to it,” Placencia said, both of the cuisine and the process of making it.

Brownlee said that at Simply Nova, they work to cater to their customers’ individual needs (pun somewhat intended). Brownlee said Simply Nova recently catered a wedding at Gracie Mansion. Although they typically prepare their platters in-house and drop them off, the customer requested staff prep on site, and so their wish was granted.

Simply Nova’s predilection for the past also stands in contrast with its neighborhood. Nestled on Metropolitan Avenue between Graham Avenue and Humboldt Street, Simply Nova is on a block where a giant luxury apartment building replaced a beloved White Castle, and where many of the local establishments seem to be more interested in chasing trends than serving their customers. Simply Nova is a departure from some of the neighborhood’s other, trendier fare — as well as its many coffee shops and bars.

“Many customers always say, ‘This is so good, we needed a place like this in the neighborhood,’” Placencia said.

When the partners were looking a location, Brownlee, who lives in the area, happened to know the landlord of the building that previously housed The Bagel Store — famous for creating the rainbow bagel — which closed its Williamsburg doors in the summer of 2019.

“It was perfect,” Brownlee said.

Just last month, Simply Nova celebrated its one-year anniversary. And Brownlee and Placencia, a Bronx resident, couldn’t be happier with how their business has evolved. Instead of relying on advertising, their customer base has built by word of mouth — exactly as they’d hoped it would.

“We’ve always wanted to build a place that grows slowly by customers who really trust us, and that fulfills us, knowing those people keep coming back,” Brownlee said, adding that their customers come from all over the city.

Now, Brownlee and Placencia are looking to the future. “We’re already planning to expand,” Brownlee said, sharing that they’re hoping to open a second location later this year.

Brownlee expressed how important it is to provide their Jewish customers with an authentic experience to connect them with their heritage. “I feel that this food is very special,” he said. “Many different cultures, or countries, they have their type of food, and it’s easy for people to find it. It’s not so easy for people who grew up with this kind of food to find it.”

While there has been a surge of appetizing shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan over the last decade or so, this wasn’t always the case — particularly when you consider how bountiful appetizing shops once were in New York City. When Shelsky’s Cobble Hill location opened in 2011, it was the first new appetizing store in Brooklyn in 60 years.

Brownlee insists appetizing stores can and should be for everyone. “Anybody who loves food, and loves lox or good soup or good bagel — they could come and enjoy [it] if it’s presented to them the right way,” he said. “They don’t necessarily have to know about the food.”

The post An East Williamsburg appetizing shop offers ‘a taste of nostalgia’ to its customers appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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